Posted: January 4, 2015, 7:25 p.m. EST
For nearly 30 years, ever since saving her first rabbit, Sue Brennan of Rabbit Haven has been fighting for people to give rabbits respect. It was how her rescue came into being.
"I realized that rabbits had no champions,” Brennan said. "I really didn’t decide to open a rescue. As an animal lover it happened slowly, one rabbit at a time. Before I knew it, I had 13 bunnies. There was no place for them to go. Shelters were passing out two or more at a time, not sexing them and not spaying or neutering them. The humane society in our area was selling them for $5 each for breeding or food. Someone needed to step up, speak for the bunnies, help them gain services. I guess that person was me.”
A trend Brennan noticed as the economy worsened was that more rabbits were surrendered as people lost their homes.
© Courtesy of Rabbit Haven
Gretta the Flemish Giant awaited her Forever Home at Rabbit Haven.
A Memorable Rabbit Rescue
Brennan said that all the rabbits rescued are memorable and rewarding. One rescue that stood out involved a pair of rabbits being offered for sale online. The owner had a snake and got the rabbits hoping they would produce food for his snake, but the bunnies never had babies. He was offering the pair to someone with a larger snake that could eat them. Brennan contacted him offering to pay and pick them up.
"He sent me an email explaining that they were just ‘stupid rabbits’ and that his snakes were smarter and better than rabbits. He refused to sell them to me. He threatened to come to Rabbit Haven with his snakes to let them have a feast.”
Brennan said she was shocked by the reply, but determined to rescue the rabbits. A volunteer contacted him stating that the rabbits would be for her brother’s big snake for Christmas. A meeting was arranged, and when the seller asked about the brother’s snake, the volunteer made up a story about a 20-foot long pet rattlesnake, which caused some amazement, but the sale was completed. "This was on Christmas Eve about five years ago,” Brennan said. "They were the best Christmas gift ever.”
Rabbit Rescue Successes And Challenges
Brennan considers the greatest success of Rabbit Haven to be buying property that was large enough for their house, their construction company and a large rabbit shelter. An 11-acre property she had her eye on for two years finally hit a price they could pay and they got it.
"We were able to build a 3,200 square-foot shelter with plenty of room for support buildings,” she said. "Having a physical shelter has made a big difference in our volunteer base. People are more comfortable volunteering in a shelter than coming into our house. We built a first-class example of a bunny shelter. I wanted to set a high standard for others to follow. We have done that. We have a very workable, beautiful shelter.”
Educating people about rabbits is the biggest challenge Rabbit Haven faces, Brennan said. The list of rabbit facts the shelter works to spread includes rabbits being pets and not farm animals, the importance of finding a rabbit-savvy veterinarian and knowing that veterinary costs may be higher than for dogs or cats, that spaying eliminates the risk of uterine cancer and unwanted pregnancy, and many more.
"Rabbits are social animals,” Brennan said, "the saddest thing I see is a little bunny, living alone and often neglected in a small, wire-sided, outdoor hutch.”
Brennan said the biggest fundraiser for the shelter is the annual Harbor Hop. "It is a dinner event with a silent and live auction,” she said. "This 50s-themed event is great fun with ‘poodle/ bunny’ skirts, great diner-style food and music. Our donors are generous and our attendance has grown over the last few years.” In 2014, it took place in September.
Rabbit Haven is run by volunteers, all of whom Brennan is grateful for, and she said new volunteers are always welcome. "Rabbit Haven is a family of caring, gentle people,” she said. "We love the rabbits and each other. It is a wonderful place to visit and work. We are a no-kill shelter so, once a rabbit is welcomed, they have a forever home.”
What People Should Know About Rabbits
What is the one thing Brennan wishes people knew about rabbits? She actually had two. One is that rabbits are not a low-cost pet. The other is for people to adopt rabbits. "Adopting from a shelter has many advantages. The rabbit will be sexed, vet-checked, spayed/ neutered and assessed for behavior and personality.”
Rabbit Haven Quick Stats
Location: Washington State
Opened: 1991 officially (but first rabbit rescue was nearly eight years earlier)
Rabbits Rescued Since Opening: 80 to 100 rabbits per year
Number Of Rabbits Typically At The Shelter: More than 135 (approximately 80 in the main shelter, 45 to 60 in the feral warren and 10 to 15 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>>