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North Hills Monthly

Rabbit Rescuers Help Find Homes for Unwanted Animals

Feb 28, 2019 05:39PM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Photo courtesy of Animal Friends

Say “rescue animals” and most people likely think of dogs or cats. But rabbits are also a huge concern for area shelters and rescue organizations.

“Rabbits are the third most common animals brought to shelters,” said Matt Petropaoli, manager of communications, Humane Animal Rescue.

Humane Animal Rescue, Animal Friends and Rabbit Wranglers all work together to ensure that the domestic rabbit population stays healthy and safe. But sometimes that is difficult. One reason may be the overall appearance of rabbits—because they look cute and cuddly, people think that they are.

“Rabbits can be perceived as a great pet for small children, but they are most certainly not. Rabbits can be skittish and frighten easily, and children can often grow bored with their pet as they get older, which can end in neglect or worse,” said Shannon Clarke, director of communications at Animal Friends.

Because of that confusion, people may buy rabbits as Easter pets without doing the proper research, which in turn leads to neglect, animal surrender or abandonment. Suaz Forsythe, co-founder of Rabbit Wranglers, said that they usually see an increase in rabbits needing homes and services in the fall.

“Children get them for Easter, and they fall out of favor pretty fast. The parents put the rabbits outside and they get tired of taking care of them so when the weather gets cold, we get them,” she said.

Rabbit Wranglers was created out of a need to assist the local shelters with rabbit rescues. Forsythe, who works at Animal Friends, saw a real need for foster homes for sick and “hard case” rabbits.

“Shelters have a hard time because not everyone knows rabbits; a lot of people haven’t had interaction with them,” she explained. “It’s a high maintenance animal for shelters, particularly if the animals are ill.”

Rabbit Wranglers has a network of more than 115 volunteers who help rescue, foster and train rabbits while also offering educational programming, often through the local shelters. Rabbit Wranglers also partners with the organizations to assist in caring for rabbits that are too ill to be housed at the shelters, and board and groom rabbits as a fundraiser for the nonprofit.

Rabbits are surrendered for a variety of reasons. “Most of the rabbits in our care are owner surrenders; pet owners may get a new pet that does not like the rabbit, or they may have just grown bored with the pet. The rabbit may also be a result of an unwanted litter when pet owners choose to not spay or neuter,” said Petropaoli.

Rabbit owners who tire of the animals sometimes simply release them into the wild, leading to an almost certain death. “Domesticated rabbits are not wild pets; one wouldn’t survive in the wild,” said Forsythe, who often has to trap and rescue released rabbits.

Because rabbits can be challenging pets, all three groups work to educate potential adopters and have staff who specialize in rabbit care. They also work with those who have adopted animals to solve behavioral and other issues. Special workshops, events and rabbit adoption days are held at both shelters with Forsythe and other experts leading the programming. Animal Friends offers Bunny Yoga, Bunny Grooming, and Common Diseases of the Pet Rabbit, just to name a few.

“We also have Rabbit Romps and spas almost every weekend, which are great opportunities to meet the rabbits at Humane Animal Rescue, or to bring your own rabbit for some pampering and socialization,” Petropaoli said.

For those who want to help but don’t necessarily want to adopt a pet rabbit, there are other avenues. “From donating pet food to our Chow Wagon Pet Food Bank to sponsoring the adoption of a homeless animal to making a generous monetary donation, it truly makes the difference in the lives of the pets and people of our region,” said Clarke.

And of course, foster families and adopters are always in need. 

“Good adopters of rabbits are knowledgeable about rabbit care and are prepared for the commitment that comes with adopting any new pet into a home. Healthy rabbits can live up to 10 years, and we take every step to make sure that potential adopters are aware of this fact,” Petropaoli said.

With numerous rabbits in foster care at any given time, Rabbit Wranglers also seeks foster families. “We get calls every day,” said Forsythe. “Fortunately, we have so many volunteers and some of our volunteers have more than one rabbit. Once you own a bunny, you want to help.”

For more information about Rabbit Wranglers, visit More information and photos of rabbits available for adoption at Animal Friends can be found at Visit for more information about Humane Animal Rescue's rabbits, and more information and resources for rabbit owners can be found at