The Victoria branch of the BC SPCA knows that advertising works, especially when it comes to parents and children associating Easter with adorable, fluffy animals. Bunnies and chicks used in Easter adverts tug at the heartstrings, but the SPCA hopes parents won’t gift rabbits, chickens and ducks this weekend.
“I think it happens everywhere. We end up getting a lot of people interested,” said branch manager Annie Prittie Bell. “People are suddenly interested, but then after time goes by they decide that ‘I didn’t know it costs this to take care of a rabbit.’”
Caring for a rabbit can cost between $3,000 and $4,000 over its lifetime, including about $200 in one-time costs for spaying/neutering, and buying a habitat, litter box, care book, dishes, brush and water bottle.
Then there are annual costs of around $300 for food, veterinary visits, and white wood shavings. Also, rabbits, while cute and cuddly, demand the same level of commitment and care as a cat or a dog.
“That’s where we try to educate, talking about the commitment of a rabbit. You’re looking at 12 years of care and not insignificant costs of care,” Prittie Bell said. “It does add up more than what people anticipate. We try to really let people know what it means.”
Last year the Victoria branch, which services the entire lower Island, adopted out 42 bunnies. There are on average about 15 at a time housed at the shelter on Napier Lane.
“We always have a lot of rabbits, but we don’t want them adopted just because somebody has a whim. We want them to go into forever homes,” Prittie Bell said. “And we don’t want them released, because they aren’t able to fend for themselves in the same way as a wild one.”
Domesticated rabbits enjoy attention and affection, but most do not like being held or cuddled because it initiates a feeling of being caught by a predator. Held rabbits often try to escape and can suffer serious injured if they fall, or a child may be injured by the rabbit’s powerful hind legs in the struggle.
“If you don’t think through the purchase of an Easter rabbit you may regret your decision,” said Craig Naherniak, the SPCA’s general manager of humane education. “The commitment of care must extend throughout the animal’s lifetime. If you are the least bit hesitant about the decade-long commitment of a rabbit in your family, the option is simple – give children stuffed animals or chocolate as Easter gifts.”