The Coastal Star

Paws Up for Pets!: Learn before you leap into bunny life




By Arden Moore

Years ago, I attended the Palm Beach County Fair and, on impulse, adopted a dwarf silver-coated bunny who’d received a second-place ribbon. I was a reporter for the Sun-Sentinel, fated to finish second in many journalism contests. Being a byline bridesmaid, I felt an instant affinity for this bridesmaid bunny, whom I named Huny Buny (misspelled on purpose).
Although I had grown up with dogs and cats, I was clueless on how to care for a rabbit.
Quickly, I learned that baseboards and phone cords are no match for her need to chew, chew, chew. Huny Buny was sweet and smart — she learned on her own how to use a litter box — but she was lonely. She loved quietly hopping behind my cat Samantha and lightly nipping her rear to send her skyward in what can only be described as Bunny Humor 101.
Realizing I was a lousy bunny owner, I was fortunate to place Huny Buny with a savvy rabbit expert in Lake Worth. She was looking for a buddy for her male bunny, who was neutered. Huny Buny adapted easily to her new home, probably relieved to be rid of my rookie bunny mistakes.
I make this confession in an effort to prevent the same adopt-a-bunny impulse in readers as the celebration of Easter approaches. In fact, if Megan Chaney or Luisa Sheer had their wish, people in Palm Beach County would heed the motto: “Make mine chocolate” — as in bunny-shaped candy — instead of dashing out and adopting baby bunnies for themselves or their children.
“Sure, bunnies are cute when they are babies and it is easy to fall in love with them,” says Sheer, of Ocean Ridge. “But they do grow up and they are a lot of work. You need to be willing to make a commitment to care for them as you would do for a dog or a cat, because bunnies live, on average, 10 years.”
Sheer declares her family includes seven rabbits — all rescues — who display a wide range of personalities.
“I call them my seven little dwarfs because one is happy, one is sad, one is grouchy and so on,” she says. “Never in my life would I think I would be taking care of a bunny, let alone seven. I love them and know the work involved to keep them happy and healthy.”
Part of her bunny savvy is due to her connection to Chaney, of Lake Worth, who is the founder of Luv-A-Bun Rabbit Rescue, a nonprofit group that rescues abandoned and neglected rabbits who are fostered, provided medical care, socialized and spayed or neutered before being adopted.
“Our goal is to educate people about rabbits as pets and to find quality, indoor permanent homes for our fostered rabbits,” says Chaney, the proud owner of three rescued rabbits named Sparkle, Sprinkles and Hero. “We’re pretty strict on who gets to adopt. If someone tells me, ‘Oh, my child wants a bunny,’ I respond, ‘Do you want a bunny? — because you will be the caretaker.’ ”
She shares some bunny facts:
• Yes, bunnies can learn to hop on a leash and harness, but don’t expect them to heel nicely like your well-mannered mutt.
• Use recycled newspaper pellets, not clay litter used for cats because clay litter is bad for a rabbit digestive system if ingested.
• Place some hay on top of the litter box because rabbits “like to eat while they poop and poop while they eat.”
• Take your pet rabbit for annual wellness exams with a veterinarian trained to treat exotic animals. • Spay or neuter your rabbit. Females are capable of becoming pregnant again within an hour of giving birth.
• Timothy hay ranks as the most important food for a pet rabbit, followed by romaine lettuce and store-bought rabbit pellets.
• Bunnies aren’t noisy like barking beagles, but they can quietly chew a baseboard in less than a minute if not properly supervised.

Chaney hopes to pass on her knowledge to pet lovers in Palm Beach County. Currently, rescued rabbits are cared for in foster homes, but the goal is to raise money for a rabbit shelter in the county. Look for a fund-raising bunny calendar to come out for 2011.
“Around Easter time, we concentrate more on education than adoption,” says Chaney. “Bunnies can make wonderful pets and we’re here to help answer any questions you might have about their care or personalities. I tell people that however much time you put into your bunny is how much you get out of your bunny.”

Hop over here to learn more
Want to adopt a bunny or
volunteer in rabbit rescue? Visit the Web site of Luv-A-Bun Rabbit
Rescue (www.loveabun.net), a nonprofit group based in Palm Beach
County.
This group posts rabbit videos on YouTube at
www.youtube.com/user/luvabun.
To learn more, contact founder Megan
Chaney at 561-596-8175 or info@luvabun.net.

Arden Moore, an animal behavior consultant, editor, author and professional speaker, happily shares her home with two dogs, two cats and one overworked vacuum cleaner. Tune in to her “Oh Behave!” show on Pet Life Radio.com and contact her at arden@ardenmoore.com.


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