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Live Bunnies Are High-Maintenance Pets

Think twice about giving a child a live rabbit for Easter.

Every day it is the same thing. "We take unwanted animals to the shelter, honey, where they'll be sent to a better home," or "Oh, just let them outside, and they'll be free."

This is only a sample of the messages parents leave on the answering machines of volunteers like Susan Wong, a founding member of the Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia chapter of The House Rabbit Society, a national nonprofit organization that was founded to deal with all the bunnies that get neglected by their owners.

The organization gets countless phone calls from parents wanting to feel good about giving their pets away and trying to find ways to justify their decision to their children.

Ever since the society was founded in 1994, it has rescued over 600 pet rabbits that have been abandoned by the owners as soon as the initial excitement of having a bunny is gone. And considering the fact that Easter is right around the corner, The House Rabbit Society sure has its work laid out.

<b>"THERE'S USUALLY A 60-PERCENT INCREASE</b> in abandoned bunnies the five months following Easter each year," said Patricia Henningsen, media contact and volunteer for the Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia chapter of the organization.

The Society rescues the bunnies and then tries to place them in new loving homes, but besides that, the Society also has licensed volunteers that work to educate people on how to care for their rabbits. "Most people are misinformed," Henningsen explained. Henningsen also talked about the fact that bunnies really are not a good pet for children. "Bunnies don't like being picked up and cuddled. They are ground animals, and that is where they like to be."

Lisa Smith, adoption co-ordinator at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, also acknowledges an increase in people turning in pet rabbits the first few months following Easter. Smith explained that people who buy pet rabbits for their children really do not know how much work there is to care for them. "Bunnies are not a starter pet for children. They are very high-maintenance pets that demand a lot of care, which is something a child can't provide." Smith also added that bunnies can live up to 12 years, so getting one is big commitment.

<b>SO, INSTEAD OF BUYING A PET BUNNY</b> for a child this Easter, The House Rabbit Society suggests the following ways of celebrating these little creatures:

*Take your children out on the full moon the night before Easter and show them the bunny in the moon, which can be seen during every full moon. It might not have so much to do with the Christian holy day, but it is a lot more bunny-friendly! The whole dilemma actually started with the Norse goddess of fertility, Ostara, whose original symbols were the egg and the hare, so the Christian faith does not really have anything to do with the fact that people associate rabbits and eggs today.

*Other things you can do is to take your children to the new Beatrix Potter exhibition at the Smithsonian, or buy your children a stuffed bunny or a chocolate bunny.

So before you buy your child that cute, fuzzy little bunny for Easter this year, make sure you buy it for the right reason. Do not buy it because it is Easter; buy it because you want a bunny and are willing to treat it with the care and love it deserves.