Breeders of any animal be it a dog, cat or rabbit are often targeted as the reason why there are so many homeless animals in shelters.
While I do sympathize with the millions of pets stuck in animal shelters throughout the world I do have to say that as a breeder I cannot be held responsible for those animals. Pet owners who choose to purchase or adopt an animal without doing research or without consideration for the lifetime commitment they are making for the pet are the reason why there are so many animals in shelters. Are there bad breeders out there? Of course, puppy mills and unethical people who pump out litter after litter come to mind, but I will not allow myself to be lumped in with the bad eggs when I take every precaution to ensure that the animals I produce do not end up in shelters.
My sales policies state I will always take an animal I have sold back no questions asked. I especially expect pet buyers to utilize this part of the sales policy should they no longer be able to care for their animal. With that said the only exception to taking an animal back is if it is infected with some sort of contaigous pathogen. In this case I will make every effort to assist my buyer with rehoming or euthanizing their animal if it is too ill to be treated.
Perhaps I'm lucky that I raise farm animals, and YES bunnies are farm animals. While bunnies are a popular pet throughout the nation, make no mistake rabbits are multipurpose agricultural animals that fill a variety of purposes from beloved pet, to healthy dinner on the table, all the way to lab animal fascilitating breakthroughs in medicine.
I am VERY supportive of all uses of the domestic rabbit which is why I am an ARBA member - an organization that promotes all aspects of the domestic rabbit. I am extremely leery of PETA like organizations such as the House Rabbit Society which are bunny terrorists in my opinion. Have I owned "house rabbits," in the past? Absolutely! Do I have pet rabbits now? Yes!
The key difference with me is that even though some of my rabbits are pets, the majority of them are considered livestock and while they are all treated with dignity and respect, and spoiled absolutely rotten with toys, treats, and playtime, each agricultural rabbit serves a purpose be it show animal, brood animal, or food animal. Whether a rabbit is destined for slaughter for meat purposes or the show table the way they are treated is the same. They all live happy lives in large cages with play time, adequate nutrition and mental stimulation. For the rabbits that are going to be processed to feed my dogs, they are humanely euthanized by an AVMA accepted method and after death are quickly dressed.
I am a firm believer in not inflating the already full pet marked with rabbits. While I do sell rabbits as pets from time to time, the majority of my sales are to fellow breeders which I prefer. I am well aware of the many rabbits that are dumped into animal shelters or set loose this time of year after Easter. Instead of selling rabbits as pets I have the option of processing them for meat where they serve a greater purpose by providing my dogs with a healthy meat source saving me money on their rather expensive premium dog food. I am of the opinion that it is far better to live a short happy life then a long life of neglect that far too many bunnies live when their owners' become bored or the family forgets about the bunny living in the outside hutch. I process a steady number of rabbits each month, each of these bunnies are not displacing a shelter rabbit from a home as so many "only adopt, don't buy," campaigns claim.
What prompted me to blog about the measures I take to ensure I'm not having rabbits I produced end up in shelters is this little bunny below.
The gray area of being a responsible breeder is what do you do with the homeless bunnies out there?
Should we take in rescue rabbits? What if someone you know approaches you about a rabbit they don't want or can't keep? I always avoid these scenarios as much as possible as I feel if a person signs over the rights to the bunny as an owner to me then I can do what I see fit with the rabbit, be it rehome it, or euthanize it for meat.
I was contacted by a neighbor the other day about a bunny they had found hopping loose in the parking lot of a McDonalds. The bunny above is that bunny, an agouti and white 4-5 lb. Lionhead mix of some sort (he has a small mowhawk.) This intact male rabbit would never have survived for long and he was friendly enough that he was easily caught.
Most animal shelters around here aren't prepared to house rabbits let alone try to adopt them out and with Easter just a few days past their intake on rabbits is high which means a great number are euthanized. Personally I hate to see a healthy rabbit injected with a euthanasia solution when it could be euthanized with another humane method and then processed to feed another animal. What a waste to inject a meat producing animal with a toxic substance making their yield worthless. I agreed to take in this rabbit they named "Honey Bunny," to spare him an instant injection of death in a scary shelter. Instead he can live out a week at my farm where he can eat as much as he wants in a stable rabbit savy environment while I see if I can find him a home. If not, then after the week I give him I can humanely euthanize him and process him for meat.
I didn't breed this mixed breed rabbit, and I'm of the opinion that it is not my responsibility to take him in and rehome him. Yet, I did take him in and now that he's here I have to figure an appropriate end for him wether it be in another screened pet home or a humane end with a purpose.
While some people may not like the fact that the rabbit may end up being used for meat, I just say to those people that every day thousands of animals are euthanized because there aren't enough homes. Isn't it better that the rabbit be used to feed another animal rather then euthanized and thrown away?
What to do in a situation like this is something every breeder should think about..