As Easter approaches, animal advocates in New York City are worried that the already high rate of bunny abandonment is about to increase. Within the past two years, the number of rabbits that are bought as pets and then dumped and left to die in the city's public parks and gardens has gone up dramatically, according to DNAinfo:
Animal Care & Control of New York City took in 380 rabbits last year - up from 341 in 2012 and 283 in 2011. That doesn't count the dozens of homeless bunnies saved by volunteers who say they're having a hard time keeping up with rabbit rescues ...
Many of the unwanted bunnies end up in the so-called rabbit room at Animal Care & Control's East Harlem facility. Erin Alanna, a member of the rescue group NYC Metro Rabbits, said she's seen a three-fold increase in abandoned bunnies during the seven years she's volunteered at the shelter.
After dogs and cats, rabbits are the third-most-sheltered animal in New York, though they're disproportionately abandoned in public places. Advocates say that's because many people adopt bunnies as starter pets -- often for children, more often around Easter -- and are frustrated when the animal does not meet expectations for one reason or another. Pet-owners might think they're doing bunnies a favor by "setting them free," but, on the contrary, domestic rabbits are likely to suffer by roaming outdoors.
Advocates hope that by raising awareness about the dangers of abandoning bunnies outdoors, they'll be able to curb the number of rabbits they're forced to rescue. Additionally, rescue groups like NYC Metro Rabbits aim to change people's perceptions of bunnies as pets, and encourage prospective rabbit-owners to put in the necessary time and effort to care for the animals. "People don't realize that they can be litter-box trained," said former rabbit room volunteer A.J. Woolf. "There's no smell, no barking. They're wonderful little pets."