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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Easter is coming. Many families still purchase live rabbits as pets for their children. Parents often think rabbits are good "starter" pets and don't understand what they are getting themselves into. As a result, too many of these poor creatures end up in animal shelters, and children learn that pets are disposable.

Before getting rabbits, people should consider:

(1) Are they willing to make a 7- to 10-year commitment? That is the average lifespan of a rabbit.

(2) What will happen if their child gets bored with the bunny after six months?

(3) Is there a place in their house for a rabbit cage?

(4) Are they willing to pay to get it spayed/neutered and provide vet care?

(5) Do they know that most rabbits hate to be held? Will their child accept that?

(6) Are they willing to ensure that children under 7 won't pick up the rabbit without supervision? Rabbits are fragile; their legs or spine will break if accidentally dropped.

(7) Can they provide three hours of exercise every day in an escape-proof area outside its cage?

(8) Do the adults want the rabbit, too? A rabbit should be a family pet.

If people have questions about rabbits and their care, please ask them to contact my organization. We are happy to answer questions. Our Web site is www.rabbitnetwork.org and our phone number is (781) 431-1211.

Finally, if a rabbit is right for you and your family, please adopt one from a shelter or rescue group. You enrich your family with a new member and also teach your kids the value of saving a life. Thank you. -- SUZANNE TRAYHAN, PRESIDENT, HOUSE RABBIT NETWORK

DEAR SUZANNE: The topic of bunnies, baby chicks and ducklings as Easter gifts is one that recurs every year. I hear from people who work in animal shelters deploring the fact that the helpless little creatures are later dumped when they cease to be novelties. I hope readers will take to heart what you have written, particularly the suggestion that if a rabbit is going to be adopted, a shelter or rescue group can be an excellent resource.

DEAR ABBY: "Paul" and I have been dating for about 10 months. He is wonderful. He is going through a divorce because throughout his 20-year marriage, he was unfaithful to his wife. Paul swears he will never cheat on me because I am exactly what he has been looking for.

Paul's friends are cheaters, too, and frankly, I'm worried he will eventually stray, no matter what he says now.

Recently Paul asked me to move in with him. I am 32 and he's 46. Do you think because he's older now he will really be able to change? -- LOVING AN EX-CHEATER

DEAR LOVING: No, I do not. And birds of a feather flock together. Listen to your intuition. Instead of moving in, move on.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600