Rescue Tails / Look for the Helpers

By Cathy Baier

Finding ourselves running out of adequate space for our growing number of rabbits, we began to reach out to house rabbit rescues for help. Our experience after Hurricane Irma allowed us to build a network of wonderful groups who stepped in to evacuate our rabbits after our shelter became uninhabitable. But we quickly discovered that it is becoming harder for rescues to help one another due to the alarming increase in relinquished and dumped rabbits across the country.  Every good rescue we spoke with from CA to New England is maxed out with more rabbits than ever. This current crisis is a perfect storm of contributing factors: lack of education on rabbit care, irresponsible breeders and sellers, shortage of spay/neuter services, and the current financial and housing challenges for people. In addition, more communities are facing growing populations of feral domestic rabbits requiring interventions from shelters and rescues.

Yet in spite of this challenge, the rabbit community stepped up to help us. We first reached out to responsible rescues in Florida, hoping their pool of adopters was greater than ours in the Keys. All were full and adoptions were slow, yet through communication, coordination, and accommodation, things began to happen. The first good news came from the wonderful Southwest Florida House Rabbit Rescue, a longtime friend to our shelter, who agreed to make room for two rabbits. Rob and Haley, who previously adopted from us, agreed to drive Cricket and Popcorn to meet with a transporter from Naples, and within a day, our east coast bunnies became west coast bunnies!

The timing turned out to be perfect for two more of our rabbits, Clover and Walter.  It so happened that this is the time of year for the annual Southeast Bunfest, a national gathering of pet rabbit lovers in Stuart, Florida.  We contacted the coordinator of the Bunderground Railroad, a national network of rabbit transporters. Being familiar with house rabbit rescues nationwide, she knew who would be attending Bunfest from other parts of the country.  Through her and other contacts, we found two northern rescues who each agreed to take a rabbit. Based on their request, we chose Clover and Walter to make the trip. All we needed to do was get them to Stuart in time to catch their ride north.  “Ask and ye shall receive”!  We posted on social media and quickly got offers from two wonderful people. Nick lives in South Miami and was headed to Stuart for Bunfest that weekend. Dina, a rabbit adopter and foster who lives in the Keys, offered to get them out of the Keys to meet Nick who then drove them to Stuart.  Clover and Walter got to enjoy hotel life for two nights until Marylou, a dedicated member of the House Rabbit Society,  helped get them to their northern destinations.

So on the same day, four of our rabbits headed out of the Keys to new places to start new lives, thanks to an incredibly generous group of helpers in our animal loving “village”! Our heartfelt thanks to all of them!

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