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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Rabbits are not disposable creatures

Published 08/11/09
By Jessica Stout, Office Generalist

While we mostly focus on exotic and captive wildlife here at Born Free USA, every now and then a story comes along outside our normal realm of work that is so shocking, we just cannot ignore it. Last week’s horrifying story was the revelation of the Petland employee who drowned two rabbits at the Akron, OH store.

Elizabeth Carlisle, of Ravenna, OH, was caught bragging about having drowned two rabbits while she was on shift at Petland. She even went so far as to post a photograph on her Facebook page, smiling while holding up two dead rabbits that she had just drowned at her manager’s request. The rabbits had been fighting with each other and were allegedly suffering from injuries that included a missing eye, a broken jaw, and paralysis from the waist down (indicative of broken spines).

In my shock as to the callousness of the situation, I turned to the House Rabbit Society, a wonderful group that rescues and re-homes rabbits, for their thoughts on the situation. President Margo DeMello had this to say: “House Rabbit Society is horrified, not only at the sadistic cruelty exhibited by two Petland employees, but also at the fact that Petland continues to sell rabbits, as well as other animals, at their stores. We know that this horrifying case was not an ‘isolated incident’ as Petland management states, but is the result of Petland’s policies to put profits above animal lives.”

I took this case especially to heart as I am an avid rabbit lover, and former Mom to two rabbits. It has become easy to look at rabbits as disposable “pocket pets” that are easily replaceable due to the fact that there is always a never-ending supply of them in whichever pet store you come across. I cannot help but wonder if rabbits just had the simple mechanics to be able to vocalize when they are happy, like a cat, or be more physically cheerful, like a dog, would we still be so apt to look at them as disposable? Rabbits actually are quite affectionate, and full of personality; you just have to know how to look for it.

My rabbits came to me when they were 6 weeks old. I worked at the Humane Society at the time, and they were brought to me in a box that had just been pulled out of the trunk of a car. The box was filled to the brim with dead baby bunnies. My bunnies, brother and sister, were the only two who survived because they were the ones lucky enough to be at the top of that box. I had them spayed and neutered, and brought them home.

Over the years, those two rabbits became steadfast friends with my fat, lazy, cats. My female rabbit, Snuggles (so named because she loved nothing more than to snuggle in my lap from the time that she was a baby), even devised a game with my cat Sabrina, where she would hide behind a piece of furniture, or hop up on my couch and flatten herself so she couldn’t be seen, and then when an unsuspecting Sabrina would walk by, Snuggles would leap out in front of her, scaring Sabrina into a vertical air-leap, before a game of bunny chases cat ensued. My male rabbit, Mr. Bun, always the opportunist, would wait for the few times that I was careless in leaving something out for him to nibble on, and pounce. Mr. Bun passed away a few years ago at the age of 10, and Snuggles passed away just last year at the age of 12. I had a long and joyful run of time with those two rabbits, and I miss them more than words could ever possibly say.

So no, rabbits are not disposable creatures that we can just replace when we get bored of them, or don’t want to deal with them any more. They are wonderful companions who are full of life and full of love, and have the capacity to bring many years of companionship to those who care enough to invest the time and attention. It saddens me that someone such as Elizabeth Carlisle did not even bother to learn the very basics of the animals in her charge. And it speaks volumes as to the standards that Petland Pet Stores has in hiring employees to care for the lives of animals.

For more information about the House Rabbit Society, and how you can help, please visit www.rabbit.org.

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