Easter ISN’T the time to gift rabbits and chicks!

(This is actually a re-hash of a post written a couple of years ago–but it’s still so very relevant.  -k)

Friends, it’s time again for another holiday at which gift-giving seems to be required. Bunnies and chicks appear to be the mascots for Easter, but please remember that these are ANIMALS, not toys.

Many well-meaning parents and grandparents (and aunts and uncles and neighbors and friends) give  children “Easter” rabbits and chicks, not realizing that these animals are complex and intelligent beings. Rabbits can have a 10-year lifespan if properly cared for, and chicks grow up to be egg-producing chickens–or ROOSTERS, which can have their own special qualities. I’m guessing that having a crowing rooster in your suburban or urban yard will likely inspire lots of animosity from your neighbors.

Rabbits can make amazing pets. They’re litter-trainable, clicker- and postitive-reinforcement trainable, and need to live in bonded pairs. They’re intelligent and funny, and they can eat all your houseplants in a flash. They can chew through a lamp cord in SECONDS and they’re afraid of falling or being dropped because their physiology includes a weak spinal cord.  If you hold a rabbit incorrectly, and they start to kick because they’re feeling insecure and frightened, they can actually break their own backs. And if they’re feeling insecure they can also bite really effectively (think of those big buck teeth) and they can kick the living daylights out of you, too.

Both rabbits and chickens need to be properly cared for, nourished and vetted–it’s our duty as their caretakers to give them what they need.  And our responsibility to these creatures extends well beyond the point at which the children lose interest in them. Even after the kids are bored with squeezing the stuffing out of the bunny and chasing the chick half-to-death, these animals still require our attention.

So please do not buy a living being as a holiday gift, and then end up “setting the bunny free” or letting the chicks run around loose and unsupervised in the backyard. These animals are domesticated breeds which are ill-equipped to survive on their own and they’re especially vulnerable to predators.

Sadly enough the phenomenon of gifting theme animals at holidays (black cats at Halloween, puppies and kittens at Christmas, rabbits and chicks at Easter) is surprisingly common. Working in dog rescue, I dread the applicants who say they want to “get a puppy as a Christmas gift for the kids” or “get a dog as a birthday gift.” First of all, do the recipients even want an animal? Secondly, people need to be aware of the length of commitment that they’re making to these beings–that dog/rabbit/cat/chicken will be around long after the novelty fades. Are they willing to properly continue to keep that animal as it deserves to be kept? And then there’s the fact that Christmas/Easter/birthdays are chaotic enough without the addition of a new, unfamiliar critter to the household: We need to consider the animal’s comfort and adjustment to its new home, too. Holidays are a singularly poor time to bring a new family member home.

Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that rabbits and dogs and cats (and sheep and chickens and horses and cattle and pigs) are all BEINGS. They’re not possessions, like a car or a purse, they’re living animals with needs and urges like companionship and clean water and food and shelter and warmth and exercise. Should we belittle them by treating them as prizes or inanimate things?

If you truly need to get a special little someone an ‘Easter chick or bunny’ do the responsible thing and go to Build-A-Bear in the mall for an inanimate object that doesn’t depend on you for its life. Even better yet, why not sponsor a rescued rabbit in your special little ones’ names? Check out Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary’s activities, and maybe instead of contributing to the problem of unwanted, neglected animals, you can spark an interest in responsible consciousness. Here’s a list of ways you can help GLRS: How to Help. Maybe your little friend will get even more enjoyment out of volunteering to help a bunch of bunnies, than they would out of having their own. In the process, you’ll be able to reinforce the importance of our stewardship over our domesticated animals. Now that’s a sweet idea!

Happy Easter!

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