Cute baby chicks, bunnies and ducklings may seem to be the perfect Easter gift, but you should think twice before adding one to your child’s Easter basket this year. Not only do these cute critters quickly grow up into large, adult animals requiring full-time care, but they often carry harmful bacteria that can be transmitted to both humans and your other pets. Resist the temptation to bring a live bunny, chick or duckling into your home unless you have given careful consideration to the future care required for the new family member. An impulse purchase for Easter may become another unwanted animal by summer.
Many Easter pets do not live long enough to celebrate their first birthday. Some people release their Easter chicks or rabbits into the wild when the novelty has worn off or they realize they are no longer able to care for them – thinking they will survive on their own. Such action may be a death sentence for the animal because they often lack the instincts to survive on their own and will likely die of starvation, disease or exposure or be killed by other animals.
Animal shelters and rescue groups find themselves dealing with the cost and burden of caring for and trying to re-home these animals when families are no longer able to care for the pets they bought as Easter gifts for their children. Many end up being euthanized due to a lack of available homes. Parents should give careful consideration to the burdens and expenses of caring for an animal before bringing any type of pet into their home. Like any pet, baby chicks and bunnies grow up into adult animals that require a long term commitment to provide daily care and nurturing.
If you want to add a rabbit to your family, there are local shelters and rabbit rescue groups that have many that need homes. Rabbits are the third most frequently relinquished pet at animal shelters. Wait until a month or two after Easter and you will likely find several ex-Easter bunnies to choose from at your local shelter who may otherwise be euthanized due to lack of interested adopters. House Rabbit Society is a national, nonprofit animal welfare organization that rescues abandoned rabbits and finds permanent adoptive homes for them. Click here to find a House Rabbit Society Chapter in your area.
While pet guardianship is generally a positive experience for the entire family (and the pet) and teaches responsibility to children and young adults, getting a pet as a gift for someone else at Easter or any other time may not be a good idea. Bringing any type of pet into the home should be done only after a careful assessment of the individual circumstances and the family’s ability to meet the animal’s needs. You should also consult the experts – your veterinarian, other pet owners, or an animal rescue organization – about the specifics of caring for these types of pets.
If you decide that you cannot make the lifetime commitment to the care and maintenance of a live bunny, duckling or chick, consider the following alternatives:
- Contact a local zoo or animal rescue organization and ask about sponsorship opportunities. These efforts help the animals and teach responsible stewardship to the sponsor.
- Give your child or a young relative or friend a stuffed toy instead of a live animal. Give an adult a cute bunny figurine as a substitute. Not only are these gifts maintenance-free, but they won’t end up in the animal shelter with other unwanted pets.
- Make the Easter holiday special for your existing pets by providing them with treats and toys and spending extra time with them.
- Organize an “Easter egg” hunt for the dogs in your neighborhood and hide healthy treats for them to find.
- Take a trip to a petting zoo, children’s zoo or wildlife preserve and enjoy the close contact with different types of animals without the challenges associated with full time care for the animal.
- Spend time at a local rabbit rescue organization volunteering with the bunnies.