Easter is coming and many animal advocacy organizations are urging parents not to buy live Easter animals like rabbits and baby chicks.
“Rabbits and chickens can make wonderful companions, but those adorable babies grow up quickly into adults that will need proper socialization, care and companionship for many years,” said Inga Fricke, The Humane Society of the United States director of sheltering and pet care issues.
Since these animals are usually sold at a very young age (baby chicks at 1-3 days after they hatch and rabbits around 4-6 weeks old), the care necessary for them is high. At these ages, many animals are meant to still be with their mothers so the need for immediate warmth and proper housing is a priority. The warmth issue is especially important for baby chicks who require an air temperature of 95 degrees the first week of their lives, requiring a source of heat like an infrared heat lamp. Like all pets, rabbits and chickens are a lifetime commitment and many people fail to realize that chickens can live up to around 5-10 years while rabbits live around 8-12 years.
In regards to rabbits, New York animal rescue agencies have already been seeing a jump in abandoned rabbits. Just last year alone, Animal Care & Control of New York City took in 380 rabbits making them third on the list of animals most-sheltered in the city, after cats and dogs. The numbers have been increasing steadily from 283 in 2011 and 341 in 2012. More troubling is that according to the House Rabbit Society, in an interview with the Huffington Post, almost 80% of rabbits up for adoption at shelters were once purchased as Easter gifts.
Making the issue worse for stressed out rescue groups is that many times people will dump rabbits in parks thinking that they have a chance of surviving in a natural setting. “The rabbits ‘usually look clueless, confused,'” said Sean Casey, founder of Sean Casey Animal Rescue, in an article from DNAinfo.
Domestic rabbits are not made for the harsh elements of the outside and are susceptible to the weather, predators, and other people. Starvation is another major problem as rabbits are unable to forage for food and many rescued rabbits are found severely malnourished.
Another point that should be brought up in this discussion is that the store selling baby chicks and rabbits for Easter may be doing so illegally. According to section 354 of Article 26 of New York State Agriculture and Markets Law:
“No person shall sell, offer for sale, barter or give away living baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or baby rabbits unless such person provides proper brooder facilities where appropriate for the care of such baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or baby rabbits during the time they are in the possession of such person.”
Another point in section 354 is that sales of living baby chicks, ducklings or other fowl or baby rabbits in any quantity less than six is not allowed. Meaning that impulse buys are usually done so in larger quantities, putting more of a strain on rescues when buyers remorse hits. Additionally, it states that no sale or display is allowed of living baby chicks, ducks, or rabbits that have been color dyed. Pet stores have been known to dye baby chicks in bright or pastel spring colors to make the baby animals more appealing or, in other words, make a living thing a material decoration. Violation of this section is considered a misdemeanor and punishable by imprisonment of one year.
There are alternatives for parents who want to give their children an educational and hands-on experience with these animals, especially chickens, ducks, and rabbits. Parents can bring their children to an animal sanctuary, like Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York or Spring Farm CARES in Clinton, New York. Another option for those who cannot travel far is to visit an animal shelter in the city like NYC Metro Rabbits or the Wild Bird Fund.