Dr. Jill Roberts had never seen an injury like that of a house rabbit lying on the operating table Thursday, August 4, in her veterinary office in Irvine.
The rabbit suffered compound fractures in both legs, which made a kind of strange movement that enabled her to walk on exposed bones for weeks. Leg injuries sustained. Mites filled both ears. Because immobilizing the legs can cause a lot of trauma, she cleaned the ears and put antibiotics to treat infections.
But the heart of the white rabbit with black dots dotted around the eye stopped, most likely due to a blood clot.
“She was a cute bunny,” Roberts said as he handled the loss, “I thought about adopting her myself.”
The influx of rabbit patients seen by vets, along with rabbit rescues across Southern California, has exploded along with calls from owners wanting to bring back furry pets. It’s the result of a buying spree during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic when parents were looking for cute companions for locked-in kids and teens.
Now that schools and workplaces have reopened, many of the owners are bringing them back, confusing rabbit rescue organizations and overpopulating some of the area’s animal shelters. Some owners throw it in parks, neighborhoods, or backyards where it’s hit by cars, falls, or attacked by predators.
“We see more rabbits than we see cats,” said Roberts, an experienced veterinarian and owner of Northwood Animal Hospital. She said she does “rabbit day” once a week and that usually means caring for 10 or more sick rabbits that rescue groups attend.
Rabbit rescue organizations are filled with emails and calls from beloved pet owners who say they can no longer care for the animal and would like to return it.
“It got out of hand,” said Caroline Charland, founder and president of Bunny Bunch Rabbit Rescue, which has locations in Montclair and the Fountain Valley. “We can’t keep up with all the calls — it’s all day, every day, nonstop.”
People wanted it during the lockdowns that took place in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus. “But when everyone went back to work, they didn’t want to,” she said. “People were calling them Covid rabbits.”
Leila Hadzimuratowicz, president and founder, said Bunny World, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization based in Silver Lake, delivers 16 to 20 rabbits each week to veterinary partners, including Northwood Animal Hospital and VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital.
This is just a small sneak peek at the rabbit overpopulation chart.
Her group rescues rabbits from city shelters and from individuals to prevent them from being euthanized or injured, then tries to emulate the responsible owners – after the rabbits are spayed and neutered. On average, a group saves 1,000 rabbits. Hadzimuratovic estimated that the group expects to receive 1,500 people this year.
“We’ve done it since 2008 and this is the worst year ever,” she said. “We’re all losing our minds now.”
Los Angeles Animal Services, a city agency, reported that there were more rabbits in their shelters than usual. In an email response, spokesman Justin Khosrowabadi said they had 591 rabbits so far in 2022 compared to 364 rabbits at the same time in 2021.
Why the population increase?
Although a few rabbit surveys have been conducted, rescue organizations, vets, and city and county shelters offer many explanations for the sudden boom and bust cycle.
Most rabbits are acquired on a whim, said Hadzimuratovich, without realizing the cost of repairing them—up to $1,200—and the need for a special habitat and diet. She added that domestic rabbits cannot stay outside.
“Caring for domestic rabbits is a big commitment,” she said. “They are very special animals and require four feet by eight feet of space. You can’t put them in a cage. It’s not a disposable fashion accessory; it’s a lifelong commitment.”
They are often purchased through breeders who do not sterilize and neuter the animals, rescuers say. Hadzimuratovich explained that owners end up buying pregnant rabbits unknowingly, which can breed every 28 days, producing up to 12 babies per litter.
“Someone called and said I had 40 rabbits in my house – and that’s not an unusual call,” said Charland, who said she had heard of an individual stockpiling up to 300 rabbits.
Hadzimuratovich strongly advises not to buy from rabbit factories. Sales are illegal in pet stores except for a few with licenses to sell, but illegal breeders sell them on the street. “They sell it in upscale places like Beverly Hills and raise it in Riverside County,” she said.
Khosrowabadi wrote: “The illegal sale of rabbits increases the population of pets as they are not often spayed.” He wrote that animal control officers are cracking down on illegal sales.
Oftentimes, celebrities or lonely teens like to show off their bunnies on social media, Hadzimuratovich said. “They get them for their kids, or people just get rabbits so they can post them on Instagram. Because they’re cute.”
adoption, foster care
Rabbit World Foundation She has 300 rabbits in her system and most of them live in 180 nursing homes. These volunteers at nurseries take care of the rabbits so they can be adopted. Hadzimuratovich said they are sent to veterinarians, who sterilize, sterilize and immunize them against diseases.
She said they work with LA City Animal Services, the Pasadena Humane Society, the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority (SEAACA) based in Downey, and animal shelters in Mission Viejo, Moreno Valley and San Jacinto.
Her volunteers transport rabbits from shelters into homes, often to the vet. Roberts said they take the 90-minute drive to Irvine with sick rabbits or those who need routine care. She said they often hold adoption events in Pasadena, Torrance, and Burbank.
The group recently received a $35,000 grant from Petco Love, a foundation. This helps pay the vet bills, she said. Over the past five months, the group’s vet bill has totaled $45,000.
This handsome Dutch rabbit is about 7 months old. Blue loves to show off and loves attention. He’s like a mama’s boy and loves to cuddle.
If you’d like to meet Blue, write to us at [email protected], or contact us at Petfinder: https://t.co/yfvNmnI15w pic.twitter.com/dM9q74jSNu
– BunnyWorldFoundation (@BunnyWorldLA) August 5, 2022
She said finding someone to take these furry animals is the hardest part of her job.
“A rabbit is a mix of a dog, a cat and a horse. They can be loving like a dog and give you kisses. They have the same digestive system as a horse because 80% of their diet is made up of hay. Plus they are ‘cool’,” she said.
But often there are very few houses and many rabbits. “We can’t help them all. So it becomes Sophie’s choice every day. You have to decide who lives,” Hadzimuratovich said.
To adopt a domestic rabbit:
• Call Bunny Bunch Rabbit Rescue at 833-3-RABBIT or go to bunnybunch.org.
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