Run, Rabbit: UF Housing Policy Change Causes Influx At Gainesville Rabbit Rescue

By on September 11th, 2013
Kathy Finelli cradles Brown Sugar, a 1-and-a-half-year-old mini rex rabbit who was abused in her previous home and is currently up for adoption.

Elise Giordano/ WUFT News

Kathy Finelli cradles Brown Sugar, a 1-and-a-half-year-old mini rex rabbit who was abused in her previous home and is currently up for adoption.

Rabbits are seeking new homes after being banned from the UF campus, and the Gainesville Rabbit Rescue is facing the consequences.

But it’s not just the UF Department of Housing and Residence Education’s “no-pet” order that has caused an overabundance of the floppy-eared herbivores — it’s often a lack of research by pet owners.

Sharon Blansett, assistant to the associate vice president for student affairs, said UF Housing and Residence Education has one of the most liberal policies in the United States.

The pet policy, which is reviewed annually, was recently revised to remove birds, guinea pigs and dwarf rabbits.

Blansett said the feedback they were receiving indicated students were not taking care of their pets properly, especially during break periods, leading them to their decision to remove the animals.

In the past year, Gainesville Rabbit Rescue has been asked to take in more rabbits than ever before. Kathy Finelli, director of Gainesville Rabbit Rescue, said there was a 10 to 15 percent increase in rabbits in the past year.

Finelli said people should do more research before they get a rabbit, and their biggest mistake is buying one in the first place.

“They have an animal, and they don’t want it,” she said. “Just like people who don’t want to be out walking a dog if you live in an apartment, you shouldn’t have (a rabbit).”

The shelter is currently home to about 50 rabbits, with an additional 25 in foster care.

Though the shelter tries to accommodate as many rabbits as possible, for every rabbit they do accept, they must turn down seven to 10 due to a lack of space.

Pet Supermarket sells rabbits for $29.99, and they are available at flea markets in Ocala and on Craigslist for $10.

Finelli said because of the low price of rabbits, people forget about future expenses. Medical bills and food prices should be considered before purchasing a rabbit.

Rabbits need to be neutered, not only because of overpopulation, but also for health reasons, she said. Female rabbits that are not spayed are likely to contract uterine cancer before the age of 2, and because they are prey animals, they won’t show any symptoms until it is too late.

But rabbit owners are disregarding their responsibility to their pets and are leaving the rabbits in the wild, Finelli said.

“That’s a death sentence for them,” she said, “and it’s a horrible death sentence because they slowly starve to death.”

Sheri Inks, editor of Critter Magazine, a publication that aids in animal adoption, has been fostering rabbits for GRR for four years and is currently caring for two rabbits, Luna and Moon Pie.

Inks said GRR has rescued rabbits from McDonald’s parking lots, parks and neighborhoods.

She said anyone interested in adopting a rabbit should visit rabbit.org, which she refers to as her “bunny bible.”

“They really need to do their research before they impulse buy,” she said.

Janet Braden, an office assistant at Alachua County Animal Services, said owners need to first figure out what pets need and what they are able to provide for them.

“It’s a lifetime commitment,” Braden said. “That goes with any animal.”

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