Local rabbit shelters say adopting bunnies around Easter time is short-sighted.

When Theresa Mazzei was a kid, someone brought a rabbit to her family’s Easter celebration. She can still remember the day vividly: a baby bunny sat in a cardboard box in her yard, while Mazzei and other children fed it carrots.

Since then, she’s come to realize that memory isn’t as rosy as it seemed:

A huge number of those just-for-the-holiday bunnies often go directly from celebration to shelter.

Now that Mazzei is local chapter manager for the House Rabbit Society, she has an up-close perspective on all the “cute” rabbits that get abandoned. Every spring, she said, there’s a substantial amount of people who buy baby buns from pet stores specifically to show off with their baskets of pastel-colored eggs.Then comes the flood of drop-offs at the adoption center.

“These people don’t have a clue,” Mazzei said, explaining that people who buy the bunnies for Easter often don’t understand how to properly care for them, or how long a lifespan they have. “You’re almost abusing it because you’re not properly caring for it.”

The problematic stunt has become so prevalent that it inspired a hashtag, #NotJustForEaster, which reminds people the work it takes to have a rabbit as a pet.

At Philly’s Luv-N-Bunns, about 50 percent of all rabbits that come in are holiday spoils, said Elizabeth Luczyszyn, the shelter director’s of intake and adoptions.

Of around 150 rabbits taken in per year, approximately 75 were Easter-related purchases, she estimated.

“A lot of people think it’s a really cute gift to get their kids a little Easter bunny,” she said. “Then there’s an influx of people wanting to return them.”

These Easter adoptions are short-sighted, Luczyszyn said. Just because rabbits are small, doesn’t mean they’re any less of a commitment than a dog or a cat.

A few things to consider before buying that bunny:

  • They can live about eight to 12 years
  • Their digestive system is super fragile, so you’ve got to monitor everything they eat
  • They’re animals of prey, so they’re going to be really nervous getting to know you
  • They don’t really like to be held, and they might scratch you if you try
  • When they get older, sometimes they mark their territory by spraying their urine (yup)
  • Domesticated bunnies shouldn’t be brought outside — it leaves them vulnerable to parasites and predators.
  • Over-stimulation (ahem, talking to you, kids) can easily freak out a rabbit to the point it gives them a heart attack.

If you still want a rabbit, be thoughtful about where you decide to get one, said Luczyszyn, adding that the $15 rabbits sold at pet stores aren’t really your best bet.

These stores often sell them before they’re really old enough, which can cause medical problems and even death. To be safe (and help a bunny in need), she recommends you snag a sweetie from a local shelter instead.

Not to say people shouldn’t buy bunnies, clarified Mazzei, of the House Rabbit Society. They can be really rewarding pets, she insists, as long as you’re educated when you make the decision to adopt one.

“Just be prepared and educate yourself ahead of time,” Mazzei said. “Don’t just get the rabbit for Easter and keep it for a month or two and that’s it.”

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...