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Creating Responsible Rabbit Owners

Eureka/Granite Bay 4-H | Placer County Status: In Progress Categories: Animal Science, Citizenship Youth Leader: Lleyton | Age: 11Youth Leader: Anneliese | Age: 11

Did you know that a pair of rabbits can potentially produce, and a doe deliver, more than 120 kits in one year?  If each of the offspring grows to maturity and reproduces, then number of rabbits would grow exponentially. Through first-hand experience, we have identified the problem that unprepared rabbit ownership has created within our community. The ASPCAs are filled to capacity with surrendered bunnies and local rabbit rescue organizations partner to move them to forever homes. Our project will help these rabbits find homes by educating people about proper rabbit ownership. Our goal is to educate 4-Hers and the public on what successful rabbit ownership looks like before they bring home a rabbit.

Our project addresses the problem of unprepared rabbit ownership and the immediate impact it has on local ASPCAs and rabbit rescue organizations.  Unprepared ownership takes many forms including not understanding the reproductive cycle of rabbits, not spaying/neutering your rabbit early enough, and not considering the multi-year commitment to rabbit ownership.  Shelters are consistently at capacity and the problem of unprepared pet ownership is seen on a daily basis.  There are simply too many rabbits and through education and spay/neutering efforts, we believe we can help change that.

As volunteers with Friends of Unwanted Rabbits (FUR), we became aware first hand of the problem of too many rabbits. It was easy to ask, “Where do all of these rabbits come from?” The answer wasn’t quite as clear.  There were many causes including 4-Hers giving their rabbits up to the ASPCAs after the fair season. We spoke with and met representatives from local rescues.  We found out more about their needs and created a plan on what we could do to support the need for greater owner education. What were some of the causes we found? We learned that the idea of a rabbit being “disposable” contributed to the problem.  The cost of getting a rabbit is minimal (less than $20) and it’s easy to do. The cost associated with vet bills if the rabbit is sick can quickly reach hundreds of dollars. Spaying and neutering costs are equally high. Rabbit owners may “dispose” of their rabbits via shelters or rescue organizations when the cost of ownership becomes too high.    Sometimes uneducated pet ownership results from naïve mistakes.   Sometimes young rabbits are sexed incorrectly and a male and female are put together unknowingly and unwanted litters are born. The gestation period for a female rabbit is 30 days. The day a doe gives birth it can become pregnant again. We also learned that as youth grow older their interests change and so does their dedication to their pet.  The cute rabbit that was their 4-H project or the rabbit they received as a gift is left behind or given up for another interest.  There are optimal age ranges for rabbit owners. We want to target them and their parents in our education efforts.

How Will 4-H Help?

To educate 4-Hers and the public we will find or create simple education tools to share with 4-H and the general public.  This would include posters, hand-outs, visual displays and potentially videos with key educational messages. Will will also host an exhibit table at the State 4-H Field Day, the placer County Fair, and the Gold County Fair to share our education efforts with hundreds of 4-Hers and the public at large. The exhibit would include the ideal rabbit housing and exercise solution. This will attract people to our display so we can offer successful rabbit ownership tips. We will direct those interested in supporting the rescues finally to an “easy to donate” solution.  For those interested in reducing the number of rabbits at shelters and ASPCA’s we will direct them to a local rescue for adoption leads. When someone is interested in adopting we will work with the rescue to track interested applicants and adoptive families so it’s possible to know if our efforts are ending in successful adoptions. For successful adoptions where we are attributed with making the connection, FUR will receive a $70 voucher toward the cost of spaying/neutering that rabbit.