Bunny Buddies Rabbit Rescue.
by Marene Gustin
Houston probably has hundreds of pet rescue groups with dedicated volunteers helping helpless dogs, cats, horses, and birds.
But what about rescuing rabbits?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, rabbits are the third most popular pet mammals in the U.S., with almost 1.5 million pet bunnies hopping around the country.
And they are also the third most likely pets to be dumped in a shelter.
“Most bunnies are impulse buys,” says Les Wood, an administrator at Bering Memorial United Methodist Church and president of the board of directors of Bunny Buddies Rabbit Rescue, founded in 1997.
“Easter is the worst time for us,” Wood says. “People buy these cute little bunnies for their children, and a week or two later they abandon them at shelters. Or worse, they turn them loose.”
Rabbits sold as pets are usually domestic European rabbits and have about as much of a chance of surviving in the Texas wild as a hamster would.
Both the Houston SPCA and Citizens for Animal Protection take in rabbits as space permits. Bunny Buddies steps in when the shelters get full—the organization draws from about twenty different shelters in and around Harris County. Since they don’t have a facility of their own, Bunny Buddies’ volunteers take the rabbits home as foster pets. Wood estimates that at any given time the volunteers house about fifty to seventy rabbits. “They really make very good house pets,” Wood says. “But they’re not an impulse buy. You need to do the research on being a rabbit custodian.”
Wood got the bunny bug about seven years ago. He had previously been mostly a dog person, but wanted a smaller mammal as a pet. After doing the research, he bought Cocoa. His roommate introduced him to one of the founders of Bunny Buddies, and he became involved with the group.
Is a rabbit right for you?
“They are very intelligent and very social,” Wood says. But they do require special care and handling.
First off, don’t plan on keeping your rabbit out back in a hutch. The City of Houston has very strict ordinances about outdoor animal hutches. Besides, backyard rabbits have a life expectancy of one to three years, while a house rabbit can live to ten years and beyond.
And, just like dogs and cats, rabbits should be spayed and neutered for their health and to facilitate housebreaking. “Rabbits can easily be trained to use a litter box,” Wood says—although you need special rabbit litter. And if you keep Fluffy in a cage, you still need to let him out to run around the house for three hours a day, which means rabbit-proofing your home.
“They aren’t messy, they don’t smell,” says Wood, “but they do chew.” In fact, their teeth grow throughout their life span, so they need special chew toys, and you need to keep cords and wires off the floor or they’ll chew on those.
They need to eat hay and a vegetable salad daily, and have plenty of access to fresh water. You can train a rabbit to come when called, and they often like to play and snuggle with their humans. But be careful how you pick them up—they can become easily frightened and kick with their powerful hind legs, and they could end up hurting themselves.
Multiple rabbits are as easy to care for as just one. Wood currently has three. “When they’re all snuggling together, you just can’t not smile at that collection of cuteness,” he says.
Want to check out some bunny love yourself?
Bunny Buddies is hosting its semi-annual get-together November 2 on the grounds of Bering Memorial United Methodist Church. Bunnies’ Day Out is an educational event with a “hop shop” where you can buy supplies. There’s a grooming area, a communal playpen where you can let your bunny play with others, and plenty of adoptable rabbits.
But you can’t take one home on that day. “We have an approval process,” Wood says. “We want to make sure the homes our rabbits go to are rabbit-ready.”
So hop on over anyway and learn about bunny love. They may be the perfect pet for you.
For more information, visit bunny
Marene Gustin is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.