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Utah Humane Society dispels rabbit myths, encourages (responsible) adoption

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A rabbit in the petting zoo at Eagles Landing Flying J in Scipio.

Alex Cabrero, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — With Easter on the horizon, the Utah Humane Society is encouraging Utahns to consider adopting a rabbit — responsibly.

Deann Shepherd, director of marketing and communications for the Utah Humane Society, said there is a myth that shelters get a surge of rabbits surrendered to them following Easter. Actually, most people don’t just go out and buy a baby bunny for an Easter basket because they realize it is a living creature and requires care, she explained.

Instead of holding the animals back from finding homes, this year the Utah Humane Society is emphasizing that if families are thinking about rabbits because it’s Easter, they should adopt and learn the various elements that go into caring for one as opposed to buying one from a store.

“We can educate them and hopefully find good homes for the rabbits,” Shepherd said. “These rabbits are already in the shelter so we are not worried about them coming into the shelter after Easter, we actually want them to find good loving homes where they can stay.”

She said that in the past the myth has held shelters back from finding homes, which only results in more pet store purchases. Now, they are trusting in the adoption process.

People can’t just come in and buy a rabbit at an animal shelter, Shepherd explained. They need to go through the process, meaning becoming properly educated and going through the necessary steps and channels to adopt one. Stores have no such barriers.

“We want to say yes to people. We don’t want to say no, or they’ll go and find a pet somewhere else,” Shepherd said. “We want to work with them and educate them.”

Shepherd emphasized that shelters don’t actually see a surge of rabbit adoptions prior to Easter, nor do they see excess returns. Representatives from the Utah Humane Society want to convey that rabbits make great pets, and to turn the increased interest in rabbits around this time of the year into an educational moment.

COVID-19 has impacted animal shelters’ adoption processes across the state — the Utah Humane Society included. However, animals are still finding homes, albeit through slightly different avenues.

Shepherd said shelters have a limited number of animals available for adoption because they are being conservative in how many they take in during this time, primarily focusing on accepting emergencies and transfers from overcrowded shelters.

Adoptions at the Utah Humane Society are being done by appointment. Shepherd said it is asking people to schedule in advance and comply with social distancing guidelines.

Despite the additional steps, animals are still finding homes.

“People are still looking to adopt, it’s just we have fewer choices for them, but the animals are still finding homes quickly,” Shepherd explained, pointing out that prior to COVID-19, the average length of stay for a dog was about four days. Today, the average length is still a couple of days.

The same goes for rabbits, though shelters have found that it’s a little harder to find homes for them and cats during this time, hence the Utah Humane Society’s encouragement.

“Because rabbits are a little harder to adopt than the dogs and stay with us a little longer, we want to encourage people to consider them as pets,” Shepherd said. “We want to make people aware that they do make good pets and we want to help find them homes.”