Guelph Humane Society seeing bunnies in report numbers
Maybe some people underestimated the commitment involved in owning a rabbit, or maybe it’s because rabbits breed like, well, rabbits. Whatever the reason, the Guelph Humane Society is seeing bunnies in record numbers this year, and the organization could use the public’s help to care for them.
“Since Jan. 1, we have had over 80 bunnies in our care,” GHS animal care manager Samantha Westphal said at the end of July. “In 2020, we had closer to 60 in total.”
Last month, the organization had about 30 bunnies in its care all at once, and staff took to social media to ask for donations of “rabbit things,” including cages, shredded paper and exercise pens.
“We also took in a transfer of about 15 guinea pigs,” said Westphal, explaining that having all these small animals at the same time means a shortage of cages, which fosterers need to care for the animals.
For privacy reasons, the Humane Society declined to provide details about all of the most recent influx of rabbits, but at least some of the bunnies were the offspring of a stray that was picked up in the spring.
“She ended up being pregnant and she had a litter of nine babies,” Westphal said of the stray. “One rabbit became 10 rabbits that we needed to find homes for.”
That mother and one of her babies have since been adopted, but there are still many bunnies in need of homes.
Westphal could not say whether the pandemic is contributing to the increased number of rabbits needing homes, but the Guelph Humane Society may not be the only one dealing with the phenomenon.
The Humane Society of Kitchener Waterloo & Stratford Perth recently tweeted that it is in need of foster caregivers for small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs.
“Sometimes individuals will not realize the commitment a rabbit takes,” said Westphal. “They are more work than some families are aware of.”
They also need regular veterinary care, just like a dog or cat, and surgery to prevent them from reproducing, she said.
“Most people know to spay and neuter your cats and dogs, but you should also spay and neuter your rabbits,” said Westphal.
She also pointed out that with young rabbits, it can be hard to tell whether they are male or female. A female can become pregnant when they are as young as 12 weeks old, a litter can have 10 babies, and a female can have a litter every month, she said.
But she also said rabbits can be good pets.
“They do so well when they are free roaming, because they can be trained to use a litter box,” she said. “They do make great pets.”
Randi Stewart hopes that’s the case with Miles, the lionhead rabbit she just picked up from the shelter.
Stewart said she hadn’t necessarily set out to get a rabbit, when she began looking at pets on the GHS website, but “then I saw Miles on their adoption page.”
She applied and within a week, she had an interview to see if she would be a good fit for Miles.
“Apparently he likes to free roam, and I have the space for that, so that was perfect for me,” she said.
She learned that someone had abandoned Miles in the wild. He had come in as a stray, covered in ticks, with ruptured cysts. But these issues were resolved before he went up for adoption.
Stewart has had experience with rabbits, having helped a boyfriend care for one, but she also noted that the Humane Society talked her through the commitment involved in caring for one.
“I could ask any sort of question I needed to,” she said.
While Miles is exploring his new home, numerous other bunnies are still in need of homes. To see those currently up for adoption or to donate funds or supplies, visit guelphhumane.ca.