Something amazing is happening at the San Diego House Rabbit Society (HRS). After more than 22 years of helping homeless rabbits in the area using a system of foster homes, it is now opening a stand-alone shelter that will house many of the rabbits awaiting adoption. The grand opening takes place at 4807 Mercury St., Suite A, San Diego on July 20, 2014, from noon to 4 p.m.
“This has been a dream of mine for a long time and I finally just said to everyone, ‘We’ve got to do this!’” said Judith Pierce, adoption director at the San Diego HRS. Pierce said she first presented the shelter idea to the San Diego HRS board of directors in April 2012. Some fundraising began late that year she said, but a serious push started in September 2013 when all money raised from its annual Bunnyfest event was earmarked for the shelter. Fundraising continues, as the shelter is an ongoing expense.
The Adoption Center is located in an office/warehouse space in the same complex where The Bunny Store was — they even keep the same landlord. The Bunny Store is the merchandise arm of the San Diego HRS that sells rabbit supplies. Pierce explained why the location works. “We have a great relationship with our landlord, it’s very central, all our customers know how to get here, and it’s got space for everything we wanted to do — plus we can afford it.”
Pierce said that the new location encompasses approximately 4,600 square feet, with 2,880 of that for the Adoption Center, 1,000 for classroom space and 750 for The Bunny Store. A lot of work was done before they began moving in, including sealing the floors, painting of walls and murals and setting up numerous exercise pens donated by The Petco Foundation. They began moving rabbits into the Adoption Center on June 26, and 28 rabbits are currently residing there.
“We are still installing safety systems,” Pierce said. “The security/alarm system is in and they are working now on the fire systems. We are also installing security cameras so we can look in on the bunnies at night and also have a record of anything that goes on within the space when we are not there.”
How do the bunnies like the new space? “Some of the bunnies love it and really enjoy the extra attention from volunteers and visitors,” Pierce said. “Others are not as thrilled with it but are adapting OK. We are keeping a close eye on them in the event a rabbit is not doing well at the center and we need to move them back into a foster home. So far we’ve only moved two rabbits back. They are both disabled and were not adjusting well.”
Initial planning called for $250,000 to be raised, but Pierce said as time passed they realized they would be able to start the shelter with $64,000. “We have been very fortunate to have very generous supporters who covered the costs of many of our big-ticket items.” She said that someone bought a vegetable chiller for the shelter, and fundraising from a GiveBig San Diego campaign in May provided enough that they were able to purchase a washer and dryer, a refrigerator for the break room and a freezer to hold frozen water bottles for the bunnies.
The frozen water bottles are important because although they run fans and a swamp cooler, the shelter is not air conditioned. That is on their wish list. “We are able to keep temperatures at 80 degrees but would like to get them down to 75 if possible,” Pierce said. “To keep them cool, the bunnies can lay directly on the cement and we provide big frozen bottles for them to lean on and stay cool.”
The Adoption Center has a Bunnies By The Beach theme that is most evident in the wall murals. “We’ve been so lucky to have some amazing artists among our volunteers,” Pierce said. “Their renderings of the rabbits on the walls and the artwork is so lifelike. It’s really beautiful. Our team of painters was led by volunteer Rox Mund, who is a creative genius. She even made us some darling painted cabinets for our bathrooms. The team was made up of talented painters and artists from among our volunteers and friends of Rox.”
For the grand opening on July 20, Pierce said visitors can expect music, tours, activities for children, door prizes and more. “We’ll introduce visitors to our adoptable rabbits and hope to sign up many ‘bunny sponsors’ who will financially support the needs for individual rabbits in our care,” Pierce said. The 28 rabbits at the shelter are only a fraction of the 86 in their care. The others are still in foster homes.
Pierce said that during the grand opening, “We will share our philosophy and goals with everyone and hope they see value in the work we are doing, and become as excited as we are to provide this new location and its programs to the community. Our managers and board members will be on hand to greet everyone and show them around, and talk to them about what we are doing here and hope to do in the future. I’m hoping that our grand opening will bring in more financial supporters and people who want to volunteer and to adopt.”
“We hope to see the Adoption Center become not only the largest resource for rabbit education in this community, but also a social meeting place where like-minded people can get together and have fun, with the rabbits’ welfare in mind,” Pierce said. “Our plans include a summer camp for kids, art showings with wine tasting, a rabbit agility club, and ‘Hoppy Hour’ where people can bring their bunnies for play dates with other rabbits. Additionally, we plan to increase our spay/neuter outreach by having the SNAP Neuter Scooter every quarter to do low cost spays and neuters for rabbits.”
The San Diego HRS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit run by volunteers. “All the work is done by volunteers and over 80 percent of donations go directly to programs to care for rabbits, educating the public, and assisting our local shelters and humane societies with medical and spay/neuter costs for their rabbits,” Pierce said. “None of our directors are paid; everyone does this for the reward of helping abandoned rabbits in need.”
And during its 22 years, the San Diego HRS has helped quite a few rabbits. Pierce estimates about 150 per year are taken in, so almost 3,500 have been helped directly. But the help does not end there, she added. “Many thousands more have been helped through our spay/neuter programs for shelter rabbits, medical care we provide to community members’ and shelter rabbits, and those we network into other rescues or animal care agencies.”
Regular open hours for the public to visit the Adoption Center occur Wednesday through Sunday. Wednesday through Friday hours are 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday hours are noon to 4 p.m.
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