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Keeping Bunnies Safe, Happy and Healthy at Georgia's House Rabbit Society

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

That Easter bunny many received a few weeks ago went through a lot to get to their home only to be abandoned soon after. Rabbits make fantastic companion animals, but most owners don't realize what a bunny needs to be happy and healthy. That's where the Georgia House Rabbit Society, started by a group of Atlanta-area bunny lovers in 1997, jumps in to help better educate rabbit owners.

The simple reason the Society was started is to save bunny lives. Chapter Manager Edie Sayeg explains, "So many people rescue dogs and cats and, while rabbits have become the third most popular companion animal, most of the public shelters in Georgia will not even accept them from owners wanting to give them up. Many are 'let go' outside to fend for themselves and these domesticated rabbits, descended from the European rabbit, have no innate survival skills, so this is a death sentence."

Having worked tirelessly over the years to save the lives of over 3,000 bunnies and provide education on proper care to potential owners, The Rabbit Center in Marietta was opened in 2010 as an extension of the Society's mission. "[The Center is] the first permanent facility for rescued rabbits in the Southeast providing rescue, adoption and education along with a store, boarding and grooming services," Sayeg notes. In fact, it's one of the few rabbit facilities in the entire United States.

Georgia House Rabbit Society is a nonprofit run by volunteers. The Society takes donations and sponsors events to raise operating funds. "Our primary mission is to take in rabbits that have been surrendered to animal controls and humane societies before they are euthanized," Sayeg tells us. Over 500 intake applications were received, mainly from owners who cannot care for their rabbits, but also from teachers who have classroom rabbits or those who find rabbits outside where they won't survive. Foster parenting a saved bunny is a much-needed way to help the Society take care of these active jumpers until adopted.

The Society maintains a website with rabbit-care information including feeding, medical, digestion and behavior. Given several times a month, beginning and advanced rabbit-care classes come with handouts and a bunny treat. Thinking of all possible ways to educate rabbit owners, there is even a rabbit hop line (get it?) that you can call for emergency questions.

Asked about some tips for proper rabbit care, Sayeg responds, "Rabbits are a long-term commitment, living 10 to 12, even 15, years or more. People believe they can live in a small cage- and this is particularly sad for a rabbit who has stronger hind legs than a dog or cat and needs every bit as much exercise or more."

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