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April 4, 2006 > No more throwaway Easter animals

No more throwaway Easter animals

by Nancy Lyon

Easter is coming and impulse buying of baby bunnies, chicks and ducklings as gimmicky holiday gifts is again looming on the horizon. Too often this whim is a terrible mistake that ends up with the majority of these innocent animals becoming sick and dying, or later abandoned, and families traumatized.

Unfortunately, acquiring such exotic animals is often not approached with the sense of responsibility and commitment that should be part of bringing any animal into the family. Whether it is the giver, the recipient of the gift, or the animal, predictably the end will not be a happy one.

There are many things to consider before bringing these special needs animals into your life. The reality is that cute bunnies will very quickly become adult rabbits, fluffy chicks will soon become hens or roosters if they survive the handling of children and in a brief 30 days, charming ducklings will turn into large and messy ducks.

The Fund For Animals states, "Too many pet stores will be promoting the sale of cute Easter bunnies, chicks and ducklings to well-meaning parents and their children. While some of these animals may come into homes where they are well cared for, many end up neglected after their novelty and cuteness have worn off, and with people who simply do not have the time, facilities or adequate information to properly care for these animals."

Ask yourself if are you sufficiently informed on the care and feeding of these or any animal before taking the step to adopt or purchase. With "Easter Pets," whose purchase is promoted by the pet trade, there is a lot of incorrect information circulating that is mainly the result of ignorance that can lead to serious health problems and possibly death.

Can you afford this animal? Besides the basic purchase price, will you be able to provide veterinary care including vaccinations? Many veterinarians do not include the care of rabbits, ducks or chickens in their practice. Will you be able to afford an expensive specialist for exotics if they become ill?

Are you able to provide appropriate housing? Rabbits can make great indoor house companions with the right thought and preparation, but, they need a special place where they can sleep, feel secure and be protected. Without this, giving them free roam of a house or apartment can lead to problems and rabbits who are curious may consume objects such as carpet fibers, electrical cords and toxic houseplants, which may require medical treatment.

Can you provide the animal with an adequate diet? Rabbits have special dietary requirements, including a need for fiber, which can be provided in the form of good-quality, fresh hay. Without this they can develop serious digestive problems and problems with their teeth. Carrots and pellet diets alone are not sufficient to maintain a rabbit's optimal health.

Ducks and chickens are simply not meant to be house pets. Adult birds are messy and can aggressively peck and pinch when stressed, and they too have special dietary needs. A serious concern where children are involved is that they are also among the animals that can transmit salmonella, a bacteria that can cause symptoms of food poisoning.

Even well-meaning people who keep ducks and chickens in their backyard need to worry about protection from roaming dogs, cats and raccoons, as well as inclement weather. It is inhumane to keep them permanently caged.

With proper care the life expectancy of domestic ducks can be 10 to 20 years, rabbits from six to 10 or more years, and chickens upwards of 10 years. Ask yourself if you are truly able to commit to an animal, considering their life expectancy.

When their care becomes a bother, it is vital to remember that they are domestic animals who will not survive if released to the wild. Rabbits and chickens without the innate instincts of their wild counterparts suffer greatly before becoming part of the food chain.

Domestic ducks have fundamental differences from wild ducks. Nearly all breeds of domestic ducks cannot fly to escape danger or to get to food like their wild duck cousins. Besides disrupting the ecosystem, releasing a domestic duck into the wild is an act of cruelty that shortens their lifespan dramatically.

The after Easter abandonment of rabbits to shelters is legendary, with their number far greater than options for responsibly re-homing them. Surrendering animals that have become a nuisance teaches children that "pets" are "disposable playthings" and does not foster a healthy attitude toward the seriousness of animal guardianship or respect for living beings. Companion animals are wonderful additions to any family, and can be a rewarding experience, but their addition to your home should never be made on a whim.

Ohlone Humane Society strongly urges the public to consider acquiring alternative Easter gifts such as stuffed animals instead of instead of live rabbits, ducklings or chicks. If you are still considering a companion rabbit, we urge you to further explore the needs of these special animals.

For more information contact The House Rabbit Society at www.rabbit.org or call (510) 970-7575, Cottontails the Bunny Helpline (510) 797-6679; the www.makeminechocolate.org campaign promoting alternatives to live rabbits at Easter.

 
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