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The Upcoming Easter Holiday is Bad News for Many Animals – but it Doesn’t Have to be!

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In the weeks and months following the Easter holiday, animal rescues, shelters and sanctuaries around the country prepare for a plea as old as time. Those of countless parents who purchased baby rabbits, chicks or ducklings and regret their decision. They soon realize the enormous commitment that comes with caring for these animals once the “cute” begins to wear off.

It is for this reason, among others, that Easter has become a dreaded holiday for animal advocates. And, an inhumane event for countless unwanted animals.

As a sanctuary invested in humane education and ensuring a kinder world for animals everywhere, we want to emphasize the importance of researching an animal’s needs before making the decision to bring one into your home.

Rabbits require specialized care!

Rabbits are often advertised as ideal “starter pets” for children, when the reality of rabbits’ needs couldn’t be further from this. Rabbits are prey animals who have a low threshold for becoming stressed and frightened. Loud voices and sudden movements that small children cannot help but make can cause rabbits extreme stress.

Rabbits tend to prefer approaching people on their own terms rather than being picked up or carried. This can cause frustration, fear and even aggression in these shy but social creatures.

Rabbits are complex animals and require the companionship of other rabbits to thrive. They should be spayed or neutered to prevent hormonal aggression, unwanted potty accidents and future health issues. This can be expensive and must be performed by a veterinarian familiar with rabbits. These veterinarians can be hard to find given that these fragile animals need specialized care under anesthesia. Indoor housing in a rabbit-proofed free-range area or a large pen is ideal.

Sadly, many “pet” rabbits are improperly housed in small cages before being banished to outdoor wire hutches- which can cause foot problems and chronic pain- when their upkeep becomes too messy and time-consuming for a child to be responsible for. 

By the time Easter rabbits reach a year old, many are given away for free on websites like Craigslist, abandoned in parks where they cannot survive, or surrendered to overwhelmed and underfunded rabbit rescues, sanctuaries and animal shelters.

Chicks and ducklings grow up and need outdoor space!

Chicks and ducklings are no better off. Feed stores receive live chicks by mail shipment, a cruel and stressful practice that often ends in disaster when mail delays occur. This recent Animal Place article explains in depth why shipping day-old chicks is inhumane. Newly hatched chicks are difficult to determine the sex of, regardless of what a feed store or chick delivery service tells you.

Even chicks “guaranteed” to be female still have strong chances of turning out to be roosters. Sadly, zoning laws in many cities and neighborhoods forbid roosters. Both chickens and ducks can have life spans of 10-12+ years. Those adorable peeping fuzzballs will soon transform into grown birds. They will require predator-proof enclosures along with daily care and maintenance. Ducks need access to water to thrive, which is not always possible in a small backyard.

No matter the species, Animal Place holds the firm stance that extensive research must always go into the decision-making process when considering bringing an animal into your life

All family members should be on board with participating in animal care and maintenance before an animal is brought into a home; otherwise, that animal is bound to become a source of disagreement. Remember, a child who begs for a baby bunny and promises to feed him every day now could go off to college before that rabbit’s lifespan comes to an end. Children’s interests change with time, and it is not uncommon for a beloved animal companion to become “boring” by the time that animal is full-grown. While caring for an animal can be a rewarding and character-building experience for a child, it must be done responsibly with adult supervision and family participation.

Adopt don’t shop!

If a family does make the informed decision to add a companion animal to their home, adopting rather than purchasing from a pet store or breeder is a humane and compassionate choice. Countless rabbits are languishing in animal shelters across the nation. Many chickens, ducks and other farmed animals are always in need of loving homes. Those interested in adding a rescued farmed animal to their home can fill out an adoption application through Animal Place to be paired with an animal in need. Fostering an animal for your local shelter or rescue group is an excellent way to test how equipped your family is to provide them with routine care. Touring an animal sanctuary and meeting rescued animals can be a great way to give kids their “animal fix” without committing to keeping an animal in your home.

As fun as the idea of a new companion animal might be, sometimes the kindest decision you can make is to resist the temptation to go out and get one. By being responsible and informing yourself before making a decision, you will help animal advocates and rescuers take the cruelty out of the Easter holiday.

Written by Chelsea Pinkham