Extreme Rabbit Rescuing

The Bunny Bunch S.P.C.R. takes on the rescue of hundreds of bunnies in Ontario, California.

What would you do if you were staying at a hotel and noticed several domesticated rabbits hopping around outside, obviously running wild on the property? This happened to someone visiting Ontario, California, in 2011, and that person contacted the Bunny Bunch S.P.C.R, a nonprofit, no-kill rescue and education organization in Montclair, California.

Caroline Charland, president and founder of the Bunny Bunch, said this was the beginning of what would turn into a large-scale rabbit rescue. They collected a few rabbits from the hotel property and got them spayed/neutered and found them homes. She thought that was the end of it, but then a call came in from the Inland Valley Humane Society. The humane society had received a report that there were hundreds of rabbits running loose on a property just down the road from the hotel. Could the Bunny Bunch help?  It seemed that the rabbits on the hotel property had wandered off from hundreds on the property down the road, then to a car rental property and finally to the hotel property.

100 Rabbits Rescued, And More Than 200+ Rabbits Waiting
Despite the fact that the Burrow, the rescue arm of the Bunny Bunch, is usually near or at capacity housing close to 300 rabbits, Charland and volunteers began rescue efforts for the “Ontario Bunnies.” Since summer 2011, about 100 rabbits have been rescued — going into foster homes, a few placed in homes and some at the Burrow. With permission from the property owners, members of the Bunny Bunch have rescued the rabbits on the hotel property, those at an adjacent car rental property and those that were on the road or in public areas. Also with permission, they’ve been able to rescue some of the sick or injured rabbits from the main property where the bunnies live, but they haven’t been granted permission to rescue all the rabbits. The many rabbits that remain on the main property continue to breed, which is perpetuating the problem.

The rescue of the Ontario Bunnies is challenging not just because of the number of rabbits involved, but because of the lack of permission to rescue all the rabbits. Charland is in contact with the local humane society, ready to do whatever rescue she is allowed. For now, volunteers go to the site every day to feed the rabbits. Feeding those left on the property has greatly improved the health of the rabbits there since the rescue efforts began.  Charland said more volunteers are needed to go every day, “Not just to feed but to check on the rabbits, to see if there’s any injured rabbits.” Any bunnies that can be are caught and rescued when volunteers go to feed the rabbits.

Charland said that the Ontario Bunnies are facing all the hazards of life in the wild, including extreme weather and attacks by hawks and other predators. Many of the rabbits rescued have been infested with mites and Coccidia, a gastrointestinal parasite that is almost always deadly to baby rabbits when left untreated.

The rescue of the Ontario Bunnies has brought more volunteers to the Bunny Bunch, which Charland is grateful for, but the task is overwhelming. “The main thing is we are desperate for more funds, we’re desperate for more people to adopt rabbits and we’re desperate for more volunteers,” Charland said.

A rescue like this is a major undertaking, and veterinarians who usually work with the Bunny Bunch have helped by offering some services at reduced rates or even no charge, as in cases where bunnies that were beyond help needed humane euthanization.

The Business Of Rescuing Rabbits
While doing this rescue of the Ontario Bunnies, Charland is careful to keep all the usual operations of the Bunny Bunch on track. “We couldn’t let it affect the rest of the operation, so we’ve had to do this on top of everything else,” Charland said. “So we haven’t let it affect anything because that’s not fair to the rabbits that we have and the ones that we need to rescue. We have done extra fundraising so we’ve brought in more money, and we’ve used that money for Ontario.”

Fundraisers are ongoing and varied, from a Valentine’s Photo & Spa Day at three locations on February 11 to getting a percent of sales at a Montclair Panda Express from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on February 18 to a garage sale planned for February 26, Charland and the Bunny Bunch volunteers are always thinking of ways to raise money or get donations of supplies.

A bake sale the Bunny Bunch held raised $300. “That spayed three pregnant female rabbits, and each of those could have had litters of eight rabbits each,” Charland said. “Every week we try to do something. Even if it brings in a couple hundred dollars, it’s a couple hundred dollars — and that’ll help.”

To date, a few thousand dollars has been spent rescuing the Ontario Bunnies. The Bunny Bunch received two emergency grants of $500 each from the House Rabbit Society, one in August 2011 and the second in January 2012. In February 2012, Petco notified Charland that the Bunny Bunch would be receiving a $5,000 grant to use toward spay/neuter and major medical bills, plus a donation of rabbit supplies. Also in February, Oxbow Animal Health donated rabbit food, pellets and its Critical Care. Charland estimates that $20,000 will be needed overall by the end of this rescue.

Rabbit Housing Crunch
Having enough volunteers and enough funds are only part of the solution. The other key element is enough homes. If the Bunny Bunch got the go-ahead to rescue all the bunnies tomorrow, there simply isn’t space for them at the moment. Since November 2011, weekly meetings have been held every Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Burrow to specifically discuss the progress and plans for the Ontario Bunnies. For housing, the hope is that adoption events dedicated to the Ontario Bunnies and a push on the Bunny Bunch website and Facebook page will help. “We’re actually setting up adoption venues specifically for these rabbits,” Charland said. “We’re going to be doing it at Petco in Chino Hills and Petco in Montclair.” She hopes these can start as early as February 18th at the Montclair Petco. “The sooner we can get them homes, the sooner we can take more in.”

Charland also hopes to know by February 17 whether or not the Bunny Bunch will be able to open a new location in Orange County, which would have openings for the Ontario Bunnies. But that raises the question of how to transport so many bunnies.

“Our goal would be to have enough funds and enough foster homes or homes to go in and get all of them out all within a couple of weeks, because that’s the only way it’s going to end is to get them all out at once.”

For updates on the Ontario Bunnies and to learn how to help, check the Bunny Bunch website or visit the Bunny Bunch Facebook page.

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