DEAR ABBY: Could you please reprint a letter you ran a few years ago about the dangers of purchasing a pet rabbit for children at Easter? As a rabbit owner for eight years, I'm all too familiar with the misconceptions and ridiculous theories associated with these delightful creatures. Every point in that letter rang true to me, and I beg anyone considering giving a child a rabbit to reconsider.
When I bought my bunny, it was near Easter time. Most pet stores didn't offer them, and I was told it was because of the large number of rabbits found dead or abandoned on the streets because the selfish, inhumane people who bought them for the holiday disposed of them the next day. These dear little animals deserve owners who will love and respect them. Please don't waste their lives. -- CAITLIN IN L.A.
DEAR CAITLIN: I'm happy to oblige. The letter you requested carries an important message that can't be repeated often enough:
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 into. As a result, 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 seven-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 website 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'll 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 these 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.