Use caution when gifting pets

By Mason Pendleton
Feature Editor

Easter baskets are often filled with many springtime goodies, and live rabbits can oftentimes be among the mix. According to National Geographic, rabbits are the third most popular pet in America, and their sales soar astronomically around Easter. Tragically, despite their great sales and cute looks, National Geographic also states that rabbits are also the third most abandoned pet in America. Anne Sutton, the executive director of the Johnson County Humane Society, works with animals daily that deserve homes but also need ready and willing owners to care for them.

“There’s reasons not to give animals as gifts; it shouldn’t be a surprise. Potentially that person may not truly think of all things that come with owning an animal…” Sutton said “…On the flip side, if it’s a joint decision that it’s a gift, and they come in together; plus they’re prepared to care for the animal for the 15 or so years that it may live, then yes I think it’s fine.”

According to houserabbitsociety.org, it’s one of the worst pets you could gift to a small child; rabbits are more of a high maintenance pet filled to the brim with energy, despite their sensitive and quiet natures. They typically don’t match with a young child’s mind-set of playfulness. Not to mention, rabbits need tons of personal space to themselves and panic when restrained.

English teacher Malerie Jeffries is a previous rabbit owner. She believes any sort of animal should be fully discussed before given away.

“I think a gift of an animal kind of depends on a situation. You know, the person has to know what they’re getting into. It has to be kind of a decision that’s made over time,” Jeffries said.

Rabbits bring a many unique challenges. According to National Geographic, just like any animal would, as rabbits mature from babies, they begin to become more destructive and aggressive unless properly house trained. They also need to be spayed or neutered like a dog in order to keep them from marking your house as their territory. In short, rabbits are complex animals; you can’t just shove them in a wire cage and feed them twice a day and be done with it. Jeffries, despite her preparations for what she hoped would be her new class pet, encountered some of these issues as the rabbit became accustomed to its environment.

“I originally got the rabbit to bring in as a class pet, and I brought him in one day, and it was fine-he chewed on a kids shoe…” Jeffries said. “…as soon I could get his hutch clean, he’d destroy it again.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean a rabbit is a terrible pet to have for any household situation. According to House Rabbit Society, they are well suited for people who are patient and willing to take time to really understand their pet, a lot like you would for a cat or a dog. They’re just a bit more complicated than a hamster or a gerbil is all, and they require a responsible owner.

Junior Grace Groh owns and cares for about 19 unique animals a day; she believes animals are wonderful gifts to those ready and willing.

“Animals are fun and some of them are really good gifts…” Groh said. “…you have to be ready and willing to take care of them everyday, and all the work that goes into it.”

So this Easter, instead of putting a live rabbit in your cousin’s Easter basket, have that important conversation with the family, or just stick to a giant chocolate bunny instead.

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