Easter is just around the corner, which means that many families are preparing to gift their loved ones with beautifully dyed eggs, a challenging Easter egg hunt, or lots and lots of candy. However, some parents may decide that they want to give their children something more: a live rabbit, chick or duckling. These animals are all adorable and make great companions, but only for those who are ready for the commitment of owning a pet.
According to the ASPCA, each year thousands of animals originally given as Easter gifts are returned to shelters or — even worse — abandoned in the wild where they are unable to fend for themselves and are helpless against cars, predators, illness and injury.
There are many reasons that people who give animals as Easter gifts later find themselves unable to take care of their new pet. Many owners may not realize these critters actually have fairly long lifespans (ducks can live as long as 20 years!), and are not prepared for such a long commitment. Similarly, many people may not know much about animal care and don’t realize that they have very specific housing, dietary and veterinary needs, all of which can bring on extra costs that a family may not be financially prepared for. Rabbits, chickens and ducks are not the “starter pets” many parents assume them to be. They require the same level of commitment that a cat or a dog would, and their care should be taken just as seriously. They also have very specific needs and preferences that can be difficult for children to manage. For example, they need to be handled very gently, which can be hard for young kids to understand.
To give the gift of a pet without taking on the responsibility of a living animal, try giving your loved ones a stuffed animal or chocolate rabbit instead!
And if — after a serious discussion about whether your family is prepared for the responsibility and commitment of pet ownership — you decide you are ready for a pet, remember that it’s always better to adopt from a shelter. The ARL has several bunnies who would love to be a part of your family!
A rabbit, chicken or duck is a forever pet, not a gift you can return when the novelty wears off. This year, please do the right thing and make sure your family is prepared for the responsibility of pet ownership before bringing an animal into your home.