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East Cobb rabbit shelter warns against bunny gifts

2012-04-05_0821

Zazzle, a rabbit he rescued from a Publix parking lot on March 16 by Sandy Springs resident Tony Glaspie, hops around on a broken foot in a pink cast at the Georgia House Rabbit Society on April 4. Staff photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan

Edie Sayeg said the tougher the economic times, the more abandoned rabbits she sees. And she isn’t seeing any signs of an economic recovery.

“In the 16 years I’ve been doing it, this year has been the most brutal year I’ve seen for dumps,” said Sayeg, board chairwoman for the Cobb-based Georgia House Rabbit Society.

She said her group, which has its shelter on Shallowford Road in northeast Cobb, often has to deal with the consequences of people who decide that a cute bunny would make a good Easter gift.

She said to give a chocolate or stuffed bunny instead.

“There’s going to be hundreds in Easter baskets this Sunday,” she said. “They don’t realize it’s going to pee, it’s going to poop. It’s going to chew wires and carpet.”

Many people think they can just drop off the rabbits with Sayeg’s shelter. But the converted home she runs the organization out of is already full, with 25 foster rabbits and several babies. The shelter gives priority to rabbits that are taken from animal control and are at risk of being euthanized, as well as domesticated rabbits that people find abandoned on the streets.

One such rabbit is Zazzle, a 1-year-old rabbit found March 16 near a Publix store in Sandy Springs. The bunny had a broken leg and surprised staff at the rabbit society when she had five babies on Saturday.

Now Zazzle is healthy, wearing a little pink cast on her leg. Sayeg expects her to be adopted quickly when she’s done nursing her babies.

“We’ve saved thousands of rabbits, and she is in the top 10 coolest,” Sayeg said.

Tony Glaspie, who found Zazzle when he went to the store to buy milk, said he is now interested in volunteering with the shelter or even getting a rabbit of his own.

“I never realized how lovable they were,” he said. “They’re so sweet.”

But Sayeg said many people don’t realize the commitment it takes to take care of a rabbit. While they may be inexpensive to buy, they are among the more expensive pets to own. She said the animals require a 10- to 12-year commitment to exercise and bring into social contact, along with thousands of dollars in food and exercise bills.

And the animals have delicate bones and can be severely injured if not handled properly. To help make sure adoptees know what they are getting into, Sayeg requires them to take a 1½-hour-long “Rabbits 101” class before they can adopt.

Around half the people who take the class determine that rabbits aren’t for them, she said.

“Rabbits do make wonderful pets, and they changed my life,” she said. “I’m passionate, but I know not everybody is. I’m passionate because they do make good pets, but you have to know what you’re getting into.”

Linda Blackburn of Alpharetta, who picked up her Dutch bunny Kirby on Wednesday, said the class taught her not to trust information available on the Internet. It also showed her that rabbits aren’t meant to live in cages.

“I’m going to build him a little hut,” she said. “He’s going to have the cutest little bunny environment ever.”

Meredith Miller, a volunteer at the shelter, said the adoption process also includes counseling.

“We will adopt to families, but we want to make sure the parents are the main caregivers of the rabbits,” she said. “Because children tend to lose interest over time.”

The Georgia House Rabbit Society is currently in the midst of a capital campaign, in which it is seeking to raise $150,000 to pay off its building, make repairs and expand its rabbit exercise area. To donate, call (678)653-7153 or visit www.houserabbitga.com

(Reprinted from the MDJ, April 5, 2012. Written by Geoff Folsom.)

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