Rabbits good pets, but not best gifts
by Marcus E. Howard
mhoward@mdjonline.com
April 18, 2011 12:00 AM | 6574 views | 5 5 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Johna Mennone of Kennesaw holds Beethoven at the Georgia House Rabbit Society in Marietta, where she volunteers.<br>Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
Johna Mennone of Kennesaw holds Beethoven at the Georgia House Rabbit Society in Marietta, where she volunteers.
Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
slideshow
EAST COBB - It was two years ago when Johna Mennone of Kennesaw kept seeing a grayish-brown rabbit in her yard. One day, when she threw it some vegetables, it did something suspicious: It came hopping to her.

That's when Mennone suspected she wasn't dealing with any ordinary wild rabbit. In fact, as she latter learned, the bunny was domesticated and one of too many that rabbit advocates like the east Cobb-based Georgia House Rabbit Society say are abandoned around Easter.

Volunteers at the GHRS are preparing for the expected flood of abandoned and unwanted rabbits they see at the end of every Easter season. Most people who give or receive bunnies as gifts, they say, are unaware of the specials needs they require.

"A domestic rabbit is very, very different from an outdoor or cottontail rabbit," said Mennone, 37, a Web and graphic designer.

"A domestic rabbit cannot survive outside at all. They don't survive usually much longer than a couple of days, either from exposure to the elements or because they fall prey to wildlife."

Luckily for Binky, the Rex rabbit that Mennone saved as a pet, fate didn't have a sad ending for her.

After educating herself about rabbits with help from GHRS volunteers, Mennone began volunteering as well at the rabbit shelter, believed to be the only such organized shelter in Georgia and one of a few in the southeast.

Located in a two-story house at 2280 Shallowford Road near the Trickum Road intersection, GHRS is a nonprofit chapter of the National House Rabbit Society that rescues and rehabilitates abandoned house rabbits and then gives them up for adoption to loving homes. It is funded through donations.

It houses between 25 and 30 rabbits of different breeds at any given time at its shelter. Up to a 150 more are cared for by a network of foster homes throughout north Georgia. However, those numbers swell about two months after Easter, when people who receive rabbits as gifts find out they have more on their hands than they can handle, said Mennone.

Each year, thousands of Easter rabbits are abandoned to shelters or into the wild, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"One day last year we got 20 calls from people that were looking to forfeit their rabbits or didn't know what to do with their rabbits," said Mennone.

"A lot of times we'll either hear from people on the lookout at local animal shelters for rabbits that have been found or turned in. We tend to take in first any rabbit that is in jeopardy of getting euthanized. Then we get lots of calls from people who find rabbits hopping around their backyards."

Owning a rabbit is at least a 10-year commitment, according to animal experts.

While they can make good pets, they should not be handled by small children because they have fragile skeletons. Rabbits need plenty of room to exercise and also require a specialized diet of fresh greens, commercial pellets, hay and water. And because they're prolific breeders, rabbits also need to be spayed or neutered, which the GHRS does to all of its shelter rabbits.

In an attempt to curb the trend of Easter bunny gifts, the GHRS has launched its "Make Mine Chocolate" campaign, to encourage the giving of rabbits made from chocolate as gifts rather than live rabbits.

"Rabbits make wonderful pets, however they're sold as a low-maintenance pet," said GHRS Manager Edie Sayeg, as she attempted to rehabilitate last Friday a rabbit found in bad condition.

"Owners get them and they don't know how to care for them. They need to have the right information on how to care for rabbits. That's what we're trying to provide."

The GHRS regularly offers information classes for people considering getting a rabbit as a pet. At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, it will host a fundraising benefit at the Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta. Tickets are $20 per person.

For more information about the Georgia House Rabbit Society, visit www.houserabbitga.org or call (678) 653-7175.
Comments
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Rabbitgirl
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April 20, 2011
I just wanted to take the moment to thank the MDJ for their coverage of our shelter. This article is invaluable to both our organization and to the bunnies. By getting our message out to the community and in time for Easter, we are hopeful that there will be fewer surrendered rabbits this year.

Rabbits can be wonderful companions and an absolute joy to share your home with but they are, like all animals, a responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. Get the facts before making the commitment and if you decide to bring a rabbit into your home, be dedicated to it's proper care.

We invite everyone to visit our brand new website where there is a wealth of information to be found. An afternoon of browsing will give a good sense of what ownership will involve and a better understanding of rabbit temperament and behavior. A trip to our shelter for a visit with us and our adoptable buns will provide you with even more answers.

Once again, a sincere thanks to the MDJ, Marcus Howard and Jon-Michael for the fantastic write up and the pleasant visit.

Johna Mennone

Communications Director / GHRS

rabbits are great
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April 18, 2011
the work they do it's wonderful. i adopted 3 rabbits from there. and also volunteer in a regular basis. people really need to be more educated about rabbits. we hear about the most different situations and not always they are good. before we got our first rabbit my husband made do research about it, i did for 2 weeks on my own, the nghrs helped a lot too. we're pretty happy with our rabbits, they're very loved.
Veggies are best
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April 18, 2011
All man, Gourmet Cook, did you really have to go there? Just eat the chocolate ones if you have to eat a bunny.
Rescue Pleae
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April 18, 2011
"Rabbits need plenty of room to exercise"?....Please tell my neighbor who has had a rabbit sitting in an outside 2 ft x 4 ft cage for 3 years. They hardly bring it inside except when it gets very, very cold. It breaks my heart to see it just sit in that cage 24 hrs a day.
Gourmet Cook
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April 18, 2011
Rabbits are good eating when grilled.
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