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The Easter Bunny is Not a Pet

April 20, 2011

CHICAGO - Illinois parents: Beware of the Easter Bunny.

Animal-welfare experts send out a reminder at this time each year that live rabbits are not good Easter gifts for children. Most people are getting the message that baby chicks aren't good house pets, says Adam Goldfarb, director of the Humane Society's "Pets at Risk" program, but many parents still give their children cuddly little baby bunnies at Easter. Goldfarb says that's where the problems begin.

"They might have a very cute Easter, but unfortunately the novelty of having a rabbit and the reality of caring for them long-term kind of wears off."

When the novelty wears off, the rabbits wind up with people such as Colleen Cameron, who works as an animal caregiver for DuPage County Animal Care and Control. People often forget about neutering the bunny, Cameron says, and sometimes when rabbits reach puberty they get cranky.

"Then they'll start biting, or not being the pet that the kids were wanting."

Rabbits generally aren't good pets for children, Cameron says, because they aren't as cuddly as they look.

"You want to just pick it up and cuddle it, but rabbits don't like that too much. So then you're going to have an unhappy kid and an unhappy rabbit."

Rabbits live as long as 10 to 12 years, so Cameron says parents who buy their children a rabbit may be stuck with it even when the kids go off to college.

People occasionally release unwanted pet rabbits into the wild. Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Sierra Club, says that's a problem because domesticated rabbits are different from wild ones.

"They could transmit diseases and other problems. The best approach probably is to give your child a candy bunny or a toy bunny and not a real one this Easter."

Most animal-welfare experts say such live animals should never be given as gifts. DuPage County Animal Care and Control offers counseling sessions before allowing anyone to adopt a rabbit - but never adopts out rabbits around Easter.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL