Here's why Easter Is bad for bunnies

Widespread misunderstanding of domestic rabbits has made them one of the most abandoned pets in the United States.

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Roger, a rescued rabbit, peers over his owner Kyle Daly's shoulder.

Editor’s note: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, shelters and rescue groups across the U.S. and around the world report a greater need for people to foster or adopt domestic pets, including rabbits. Some shelters even offer remote adoption screening and curbside pickups. If you’re interested in fostering a rabbit, here is a list of rescue groups by state and by country.

It’s the Saturday before Easter weekend at Petland in Fairfax, Virginia. Sixteen baby bunnies sit in three open pens, all for sale. Two teenage girls reach into a pen, scoop one up, and plop down on the floor, squealing over its cuteness: “I need it!”

The rabbits are all very young. No adult rabbits are for sale here.

“What happens to the babies who grow up before they’re sold?” I ask a salesman. “The breeder picks them up,” he says.

“What does he do with them?”

“I don’t know.”

Rabbits are the third most popular pet in America, after cats and dogs, according to the Humane Society of the United States—and the third most abandoned. Most Americans have a sense of how long cats and dogs live, the kind of care they need, their behaviors. But rabbits? I asked several of my colleagues how long they think domestic rabbits live. “One to two years?” “Maybe three?” In fact, with proper care, rabbits live 10 to 12 years. People’s understanding of them seems to be out of step with their ubiquity.

This disconnect appears to drive impulse pet rabbit purchases, says...

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