Posted: January 8, 2015, 6:55 p.m. EST
Years ago when rabbits were being euthanized at the Austin city animal shelter instead of being offered for adoption, two volunteers convinced the shelter to switch to adoptions, but this required more help. "They put up flyers around town looking for more volunteers, and about 30 people came to the first HRRN meeting,” said Sherry Neyman, current president of the House Rabbit Resource Network. "Our first rabbit was rescued that day!”
Rabbits HRRN helped were housed at animal shelters or in volunteers’ homes, but in 2009, the organization opened a stand-alone shelter that now houses the rescued rabbits.
"The recent difficult economic situation has meant that more people are surrendering their pet rabbits because they are having trouble making ends meet,” Neyman said.
© Courtesy Dustin Rader
With so many rabbits needing help, meeting financial needs is one of the top challenges for the rescue.
Memorable Rabbit Rescues
A rescue that was dubbed Capital Court is one that sticks out for Neyman. It involved rabbits kept in a non-secure pen beside an empty lot where rabbits were being dumped; a situation that resulted in a lot of breeding activity. The rabbits were not enclosed, so catching them all was a challenge. "It took several weekends, and numerous volunteers to catch a total of 64 rabbits,” Neyman said. "Many were newborns whose mother could not be identified. It was a harrowing experience for a relatively new rescue.”
Another rescue involved rabbits living in a junkyard that were surviving off pizza scraps the owner fed them. "The bunnies were all streaked with grease and oil from the cars they lived under,” Neyman said.
Sometimes, rescued rabbits are injured or sick and require medical care. Rojo was one such rabbit, and Neyman said he is now the "spokes-bun” for injured and special-needs rabbits. He has a Facebook page at RojoTheRabbit.
Rabbit Rescue Successes And Challenges
Neyman counts the opening of the stand-alone shelter in 2009 and its associated retail store as one of the HRRN’s major successes. "Having this centralized location for volunteers and adopters to meet on a daily basis has greatly increased our adoptions,” Neyman said. "Our Bunny Boutique retail store has nutritious food, treats, toys and supplies that can be purchased, with all profits going toward the care of the shelter bunnies.”
Financial needs count among the biggest challenges for the rescue. In 2013, HRRN held a 20th anniversary celebration that included custom T-shirts, calendars and a party with silent auction items donated by more than 50 local and national businesses. Funds were also boosted by HRRN’s twice yearly Bunny Spa Day, during which people’s bunnies are groomed for a small fee that benefits the rescue.
Education is also an important part of HRRN, and people contact them for advice. "The most frequent questions are about care, illnesses and, unfortunately, how to find an unwanted rabbit a new home,” Neyman said. "We try to educate our callers regarding house rabbit care to prevent surrender of bunnies.”
What People Should Know About Rabbits
"Rabbits are not a low-maintenance pet and should not be acquired on impulse,” Neyman said. "House rabbits are like any other pet that is welcomed into a family. They should not be left outside in a cage alone to face the elements and other physical dangers. They should be a loved and cherished pet that interacts with their caretakers on a regular basis. House rabbits are complex creatures and their needs differ from most common family pets such as dogs and cats. Diet, spay/neuter, routine grooming, safe living environment, and a veterinarian that specializes in the care of rabbits are all critical to the health and well-being of a house rabbit.”
House Rabbit Resource Network Quick Stats
Rabbits Rescued Since Opening: Approximately 2,000
Number Of Rabbits Typically At The Shelter: 100 to 150, plus some in foster homes
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Excerpt from the annual magazine Rabbits USA, 2014 issue, with permission from its publisher, I-5 Publishing, LLC. To purchase the current Rabbits USA annual, click here>>