A Friendly Reminder That Adorable Bunnies Are Pets for Life (Not Just for Easter)

The world is filled with adorable adoptable bunnies that are looking to give you love all year round. Currently, numerous shelters are seeing a surge in animal adoptions and in animal fostering with many looking for a furry friend to social distance with during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Between these factors, and with Easter approaching, now may seem like a perfect time to welcome a rabbit into your home.

Unfortunately, every year not long after the Easter holiday, shelters are faced with families who adopt a bunny for some springtime fun, only to return the animal later after the season is over. This well-meaning but not well-thought-through gift contributes to why rabbits are the third-most euthanized animals in shelters. Best Friends Animals Society, the country’s largest no-kill animal welfare organization, has made this cause one of its missions. Rabbits can make great pets, but they are not temporary gifts.

Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA‘s senior vice president for cruelty investigations, concurs.

“Every year, rabbits are purchased on a whim for Easter and then often discarded as soon as the ‘cute factor’ takes a backseat to the reality of all that’s required to care for them properly,” Nachminovitch tells PEOPLE. “Some are just dumped outside, where they can’t survive and will die from stress, starvation, dehydration, or attacks by predators, while others are abandoned at overburdened animal shelters or bounced around from one home to another, where their needs are often misunderstood — so they often end up being sentenced to solitary confinement in a cage and virtually forgotten. PETA encourages those who have the time, love, and patience to make the lifetime commitment of adding a rabbit to their families to adopt from shelters and never buy from pet stores or breeders.”

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In an effort to protect rabbits and other animals being purchased on a whim, California banned the sale of all commercially bred domestic pets, bunnies included. This measure, which went into effect in January 2019, helps protect rabbits in California, but other bunnies are still at risk as being purchased as presents and not being treated like the sweet, intelligent creatures that they are.

Indeed, rabbits are social and smart, as well as devoted companions that crave affection and activity. Most breeds live to be 8 to 12 years old, some even longer. If you are thinking of welcoming a rabbit into your home this Easter, make sure you and your family are ready for this commitment.

Tara Strong (a.k.a. Twilight Sparkle from Discovery Family’s My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) is another dedicated bunny spokesperson. The actress — who has two rescue bunnies in her brood of pets — is vocal about the upsetting trend of buying rabbits around the holiday, and, as it often happens, discarding them soon after.

“This shelter that I got [mine] from had them every single year,” Strong tells PEOPLE of her bunnies Stasha and Potato. “Some jerks bought the bunnies for pictures with their children for Easter and then dumped them off at shelters. Horrible. So, they now have a giant pen in my yard. People are like, ‘Your bunny’s condo is nicer than my house.’ We have, like, a heated house for them, we spoil them very badly.”

Before bringing a bunny home, Strong would have you strongly consider this: “If you don’t have the space to make a proper enclosure, don’t get one,” she says. “If you don’t have the idea in your head that it could be a commitment of 18 years, don’t get one.”

Bunnies require daily care. They need to be handled gently and frequently to become comfortable in a new home and often do best with another rabbit companion. It is also important that pet rabbits are given a varied diet that fits their delicate digestive systems and toys to keep them entertained. Bunnies who are not given this kind of care can become bored, anti-social and destructive.

But if you give your adoptable rabbit the love and attention it deserves and craves, this animal will eagerly repay you with years of snuggles, laughs and affection. They can even learn how to use a litter box!

So, if you want to welcome a real Easter bunny into your home this year, make sure it’s a commitment you are dedicated to long after spring has sprung.

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