Rescue group: Chocolate bunnies might make better gifts

Kathy Finelli, Director of Gainesville Rabbit Rescue, and Van Rex at Jacquelyn Brooks Designs' Runways and Rescues in this Sunday, February 10, 2013 file photo in Gainesville.

Suzanna Mars/Correspondent for Gainesville Magazin
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.

Think an Easter bunny is a good gift? Animal rescues and advocates ask that you think again.

Thirty miles from the University of Florida campus, in rural Williston, is a converted barn that houses roughly 50 rescued rabbits, as well as cockatiels and other animals. About 40 additional rabbits are in one-on-one foster homes.

“For every rabbit that we take in, we refuse 10,” said Kathy Finelli, the director of Gainesville Rabbit Rescue.

People get rabbits for their kids for Easter and then quickly realize they can't take care of them, she said.

Rabbits are the third most euthanized animals in shelters, behind cats and dogs, she said. A video on Best Friends Animal Society's website quotes the same statistic. A call to the Humane Society of the United States for confirmation was not returned as of Thursday.

“These aren't stuffed animals; these are lives,” Finelli said.

What are you instilling in your child if they ask for an animal and you give it away when they get sick of it?'' she said. “What values are you teaching them?”

She recommends that families do research before they commit to adopting or buying an animal. A rabbit is a 10- to 12-year commitment, she noted.

Families should take extra precautions with children and other pets. Gainesville Rabbit Rescue recommends that children should be at least 12 because rabbits are quite fragile.

They are prey animals, so they don't need heavy bones. They rely on explosive muscle to escape predators, she explained. Their bones are very light and break easily. Young children can drop rabbits when they start to squirm or squeeze them, which can easily break a bone.

But it's not just rabbits, people also buy chicks and even ducklings, Finelli said.

Someone once called the rescue because her boss bought chicks for his kids on Easter and did not know what to do with them just three days later, she said.

Outside of the barn, chickens, roosters and turkeys stroll around with goats and dogs.

The animals end up in the rescue from a variety of situations, including hoarding and owner surrenders.

The rescue is always in need of volunteers to foster animals, help with cleaning or basic care and socialization of the animals.

Even if someone doesn't want to do the cleaning, these 6-week-old baby rabbits need to get used to being held, she said.

“I know it's a rough job to ask someone to do,” she joked.

For more information about rabbits or volunteer opportunities, contact Gainesville Rabbit Rescue at 528-5591 or

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