Rabbit Rescue Spotlight: Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary

Peek inside the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary, which began with a different name but soon found itself devoted to rabbits.

The story of the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary begins with a different name, because the rescue was originally called Pighoppers. It was a sanctuary for pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks and other animals, and it started because of the founder’s love of animals, according to Tim Patino, board president of GLRS.

“In 2003 it was determined the overwhelming need in the area was to provide for domestic rabbits in particular,” Patino said. “As a result, the name and focus changed.”

rabbit in basket
© Courtesy of Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary 
Goliath is one of the thousands of rabbits who have been helped by the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary.

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What Goes On At Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary
Notable trends at the GLRS are that people abandon rabbits in spring and summer following Easter, or they give up their rabbits after adopting a dog or cat when friction develops between the pets. “Even though the rabbit was first to the home, they are the ones being dumped,” Patino said.

When someone contacts the rescue to surrender a rabbit, Patino said that staff first ask why the person wants to give up their rabbit. “Sometimes people just need a lesson on bunny-proofing their house, or an explanation of rabbit behavior and a referral to a veterinarian for spay or neuter surgery,” Patino said.

People also contact the rescue for advice about rabbits. “We welcome those calls as another of our goals is education,” Patino said. “Our hope is that if we help educate the public about house rabbits, about their personality and requirements, less rabbits will be in need in the future.” He said the most common questions are about litter box training, health issues, nutrition and temperament.

Rabbit Rescue Successes And Challenges
Trying to pin down a most memorable rescue proved impossible, as Patino said each rescue touches their hearts. “I bet each volunteer would have a different answer on which rescue touched them the most.”

Each rescue is considered a success for the sanctuary. Another success is the sanctuary’s home. “We are purchasing the property where GLRS is located,” Patino said. “We’ve been fortunate to always have a facility to operate from, starting with the founder’s property, then renting the current facility, and finally purchasing the current facility. To finally have a place that the animals own, and can always call home until they are adopted, is quite a milestone.”

Patino said that GLRS finds the most fundraising success through grants and by sending direct mailings throughout the year to its supporters. The mailings detail recent rescues and adoptions.

The biggest challenge faced by GLRS is not being able to help all rabbits in need because of limited resources. “Unfortunately, we cannot help them all,” Patino said, “and it is difficult when we have to say no.”

Helping thousands of rabbits over the years is quite an accomplishment, and Patino credits bringing together a diverse group of volunteers with a common goal: house rabbits. Additionally, “GLRS believes in and promotes cooperation between rescue organizations,” Patino said. “Compared to cat and dog groups, rabbit and small animal rescues, those who truly specialize, are few. We all have limited resources, but by working together and pooling those resources we can help even more rabbits. We attribute part of our success to the willingness of other groups in our area to work with us, and our willingness to work with them.”

What People Should Know About Rabbits
What is the one thing Patino wishes people knew about pet rabbits? “How personable and loving they are when given the chance to become part of a household,” he said. “Many of our adopters mention how their rabbits are the center of their household. Frequently adopters will mention their previous rabbit, how devastated the family was at its passing.”

Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary Quick Stats 
Location: Michigan
Opened: 1995
Rabbits Rescued Since Opening: 1,800 to 2,000
Number of Rabbits Typically At The Sanctuary: 70 to 90

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Excerpt from the annual magazine Rabbits USA, 2014 issue, with permission from its publisher, I-5 Publishing, LLC. To purchase the current Rabbits USA annual, click here>>

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