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Three ways releasing rabbits leads to long-term harms

From The FurBearers
March 2024

Releasing a bunny bought as a gift isnít a good idea Ė and it can create far more harms than people may initially think. 

Dutch RabbitDomestic Dutch rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) like this one are invasive species in Canada. Their release can create significant harms to the entire ecosystem. Photo by Kanashi / Getty Images

Releasing a bunny bought as a gift isnít a good idea Ė and it can create far more harms than people may initially think.

Though it may shock animal lovers, itís a common theme to humane societies, wildlife rehabilitators, and small animal/rabbit rescues: people grow tired of their pets or canít afford them, and rather than rehome their rabbit companion, theyíre released into the wild. These rabbits arenít the same species as those native to Canada, and as such, disrupt ecosystems and lead to significant issues not just for the individual rabbits, but for other species, including people.

Hereís how releasing rabbits can impact your community:

1. Competitors for resources. Domestic rabbit species will compete with native species for food, water, and shelter. This can put native rabbits and other species at a disadvantage and threaten their ability to thrive, affecting the entire ecosystem. Domestic rabbits are considered invasive species in ecosystems.

2. Overpopulation. Particularly in urban areas where resources for rabbits are high but predators species may not be as common, domestic rabbit species can breed like (you guessed it) rabbits and multiply quickly. This increases pressure on competition and resources, and leads to additional issues.

3. Management options. Municipalities and communities where rabbit populations have grown exponentially due to dumping are forced to manage the populations through limited means, including working with external groups to rescue/rehome domestic rabbits, or consider lethal methods that put all rabbits and other wildlife at risk of injury or death.

rabbit veterinarian
A domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus) getting a health check with a veterinarian. Like many domestic animals, pet rabbits are spayed or neutered, require annual visits, and may have health conditions requiring ongoing medication or diagnostics. Photo by Motortion / Getty Images

If you want to give a gift thatís Easter-bunny themed but wonít put animals at risk of harm, consider:

  • Donating to a small animal charity! There are many groups working to protect and rehome small domestic animals like rabbits. A donation to one in someoneís honour can be a beautiful gift that keeps giving.
  • Volunteering! Between humane societies, wildlife rehabilitators, and small-animal rescues, thereís no shortage of places needing help. Give some of your time with a loved one to help animals directly this way.
  • Chocolates or candies! A gift of rabbit-shaped or themed (and plant-based) chocolate or candy is another fun way to enjoy the season and provide joy without putting animals at risk.

If you are interested in adding a rabbit to your family, please look up a local rescue who can ensure you have the best possible information to give your new family member a great and long-lasting life!

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