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August 1, 2014

Where to Get Your New Rabbit

Should you get the bunny of your dreams from a shelter, rescue group or breeder?

  • Most rabbits are surrendered to shelters because of "people problems," not issues with the health or behavior of the bunny. istockphoto

So you've decided to get a rabbit: you've learned what it takes to provide great care and an appropriate diet, you've bunny-proofed your house, you've found a great rabbit veterinarian, and you're ready to give one or two (or more) special bunnies the attention and exercise they need every day. But you've got one more thing to take care of: Choose where you'll get your new pet.

You don't want to buy a bunny from a pet store because most of those rabbits come from mass-breeding facilities that can be like puppy mills. So what are your options?

Animal shelters and rescue groups

When you're ready to adopt, your local shelter or rabbit rescue group should be your first stop. If they don't have the right rabbit for you now, ask to be put on a waiting list.

To locate a rescue group that specializes in rabbits, contact your local animal shelter or search online through the House Rabbit Society.

After cats and dogs, rabbits are the species most often surrendered to animal shelters. The majority of rabbits lose their homes because of "people reasons," such as a move or the owner's inability or unwillingness to care for the animal, not because the rabbit has behavioral or health problems.

In addition to shelters, there are numerous private rabbit adoption agencies that are run by people with in-depth knowledge of rabbits. Most groups depend on volunteers who provide foster care for homeless rabbits until they can find find them a home. Many rabbit rescue groups partner with local animal shelters, helping to place bunnies through their foster care networks.

When you contact a rescue group, be sure to find out as much as you can about the organization, how it cares for its animals, how it decides which animals are adoptable and what other adoption and post-adoption services are available.

There are advantages to adopting a rabbit

Staff and volunteers at well-run shelters or rescue groups work hard to keep the bunnies socialized and healthy. Their hands-on experience with the rabbits will enable them to help you choose the right bunny for you. And unlike the teenage part-timers at your local pet store, the people at your local shelter and rescue group can provide detailed information on bunny care and behavior and answer questions you may have after adoption.

Adoption fees vary, but the package may include a certificate for a free vet visit or a reduced cost spay or neuter surgery (if your bunny isn't already sterilized).

It's easy to find an adoptable rabbit

To find your local animal shelter, search online or visit Petfinder.com. To locate a rescue group that specializes in rabbits, contact your local animal shelter or search online through the House Rabbit Society.

Buying from a breeder

If you've looked at all the local animal shelters and rabbit rescue groups and still haven't found "The One"—and you just can't wait to bring home your new rabbit—you may be wondering how to identify and locate a reputable breeder.

Learn how to identify a "good" or "reputable" breeder

Good breeders are not in the business just to make money—they don't sell their rabbits to the first person who shows up with cash in hand. A good breeder is one who is personally involved in each and every sale. He will never sell through a pet store or any other third party that doesn't allow him to meet the prospective family and make sure it's a good match for his rabbit.

Too often, unsuspecting consumers buy animals from so-called backyard breeders, people who breed their pets to make a little money on the side. They're not knowledgeable about genetics and good breeding practices, and the result is rabbits with health or temperament problems that may not be discovered until years later.

Recommendations can point you toward a good breeder

You can find reputable breeders by asking for referrals from your veterinarian or trusted friends, by contacting local breed clubs or by visiting rabbit shows.

Always visit the breeder before buying

Don't buy a rabbit without personally visiting where he or she was born and raised. Take the time now to find the right breeder and you'll thank yourself for the rest of your rabbit's life. While you're visiting, look for these basics:

  • The rabbits should appear happy and healthy.
  • The breeder's home and the rabbits' area should be clean, well-maintained and well-lit.
  • The breeder should have a strong relationship with a local veterinarian and should provide records and references about his rabbits' care.
  • The breeder should be able to explain common genetic problems.
  • The breeder should be able to provide references from other families who have purchased rabbits from him.
  • The breeder should be willing to serve as a resource and answer questions for the rest of the rabbit's life.
  • The breeder should be involved with local, state or national breed clubs.
  • The breeder should provide a written contract with a health guarantee and encourage you to read and understand the contract fully before signing. This contract should not require you to visit a certain veterinarian.
  • The breeder should be just as tough on you as you are with her. She should ask you questions about your experiences with other rabbits and other pets. And she should ask for a veterinary reference.
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