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Serious Decision: Don't be fooled

They're fuzzy, fluffy and adorable, but animal shelters are urging people to think twice before giving others bunnies and chicks as gifts in Easter baskets.

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"We will get an influx of rabbits that are cute little bunnies for Easter Sunday in the basket, and in a couple weeks, people don't want them," Donna Wambeke, Heartland Animal Rescue Team (HART) executive director.

They're fuzzy, fluffy and adorable, but animal shelters are urging people to think twice before giving others bunnies and chicks as gifts in Easter baskets.

About three weeks after Easter Sunday, the Heartland Animal Rescue Team (HART) in Brainerd typically sees an increase in rabbit surrenders, said Donna Wambeke, executive director. Pet stores will market these animals specifically at this time of year as Easter gifts, she said.

"We will get an influx of rabbits that are cute little bunnies for Easter Sunday in the basket, and in a couple weeks, people don't want them," Wambeke said.

This usually continues into the summer, she added, as the pets grow to full size.

"They're cute when they're just little fluffy bunnies, but then in probably June or July, we'll see another bunch of them come in," she said.

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On Tuesday, HART took in a singular newly hatched chick as well, one purchased as an Easter gift for a friend who found out city ordinances where she lived would not allow a chicken as a pet. Wambeke said this is the first time she can recall in 28 years with HART they've rescued a chick, although they do take in chickens on occasion.

Bunnies and chicks become rabbits and chickens and need proper care like any other pet or livestock. The Humane Society of the United States reports after cats and dogs, rabbits are the most frequently surrendered animal at rescue shelters.

"The decision to add any new pet to your household, whether it be a baby rabbit or chick, a puppy or kitten, or any other pet, should be considered carefully to ensure you have the time and resources to devote to the animal's long-term care," states the Humane Society on its website.

Wambeke recommends not buying pets as gifts, instead leaving that decision to each person or family to make.

"If you want a rabbit yourself, you should pick out the rabbit yourself," she said. "If people want a rabbit and they're equipped to have one, that's fantastic."

Rabbits make great house pets, she said, but have specific nutritional demands and need specialized care, such as teeth clipping. The Humane Society provides a web page with a series of questions one should ask themselves when considering adding a rabbit to the family. These include whether a home has enough space, if the children of the household are rabbit-friendly, if a budget allows for expenditures a rabbit can require, if a person or family has enough time to give the rabbit the attention it needs and if they're ready for the 10 or more years of commitment to owning a pet rabbit.

Visit www.humanesociety.org/animals/rabbits/tips/rabbits_as_pets.html?credit=w... to view this list.

Wambeke said she does not want to discourage people from owning rabbits as pets, just to take the decision seriously.

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"You don't want a rabbit and put it in a hutch in the backyard and never look at it," she said. "That's not fair to the rabbit."

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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