Every year as Easter approaches, many stores begin carrying baby bunnies. Well-meaning but uninformed parents think that they will make a great gift/"starter" pet for their children. Unfortunately, this could not be farther from the truth. While rabbits make great companion animals, they are not good for small children, and their specialized dietary and care requirements make them just as much work as a dog or cat.
When parents realize this, as well as some of the less-than-desirable traits that come with not being spayed or neutered, they are often relinquished to shelters and rescues, which puts an even greater strain on already-strained resources.
By no longer selling baby bunnies near Easter time, Tractor Supply would be doing a wonderful thing for the bunnies (most importantly), the parents who might have otherwise bought one, and the rescues that take in the older rabbits after the novelty has worn off. Families who are knowledgeable about rabbits and still wish to add one to their family will either make adoption their first option or find a reputable breeder.
We the undersigned would like to request that Tractor Supply stores no longer carry baby rabbits, especially during the time leading up to the Easter holiday.
Rabbits can be a wonderful addition to a family - they have an abundance of personality, can live 10 - 12 years, are litter box trainable, and can often get along with other pets. However, the prospective owner must be knowledgeable about their unique dietary and care requirements in order for the rabbit to live a long, happy life. They need unlimited supplies of hay (alfalfa for young rabbits, timothy for adults), limited amounts of high quality pellets, and a daily supply of a variety of rabbit-safe vegetables - in addition to a variety of toys and plenty of bunny-proofed space to run around.
Because young rabbits are very high on the "cute" scale, it increases the chances they will be purchased on impulse - especially if the store that is carrying them does not provide information on their special needs. Most store employees are not knowledgeable about rabbit requirements either. This leads to improper care when they're in the store (such as only being fed adult rabbit pellets and no hay), causing Tractor Supply to sell unhealthy or injured bunnies (due to being mishandled by lots of customers). It doesn't reflect well on the company if the baby rabbit dies shortly after being purchased. In addition, employees that unintentionally provide incorrect information to prospective buyers are doing the rabbits and future owners an even greater disservice.
This is unfortunate, because the baby bunny stage wears off in a few months, they turn into "teenager" rabbits - which are about as like-able and fun to be around as human teenagers. Males begin marking their territory, and females can be defensive of theirs, leading to cage aggression.
These undesirable habits can be "fixed" through spaying and neutering. Depending on where you live, the cost can be quite high and the surgery must be performed by a rabbit savvy veterinarian. In addition, most owners are simply unaware that the surgery exists, or that it will correct these behaviors (not to mention unwanted litters from mis-sexed bunnies!).
When these less-than-desirable traits begin to manifest, many disenchanted new owners surrender their pets to shelters and rescues, causing even more strain on their already-limited resources. Others simply let the rabbit go, to live "wild". Domestic rabbits are not equipped to live in the wild, and if not rescued by a kind Samaritan, they become lunch for wild predators. Following the Easter season is the worst time of year for rabbit rescues, because this is when many rabbits are purchased by uninformed (but well-meaning) parents as Easter presents for small children.
While rabbits make wonderful companions, they are not a good idea for homes with small kids. Rabbits are delicate creatures, who do not usually cope well with being held; powerful back legs can hurt a child who is trying to hold a rabbit that does not want to be picked up. In addition, small children may not always be the most gentle around animals, and can unintentionally injure the rabbit.
Sadly, most bunnies sold at Easter time do not make it to their first birthday. This is why we are asking that you please discontinue selling them in your stores. In the end, it will be the kindest choice for the bunnies, as well as the best choice for parents who might otherwise have purchased a bunny on a whim.
What we are not asking you to do, however, is stop carrying rabbit supplies. The baby bunnies might bring in a small amount of money apiece, but the real profit will come from the cages, food, and other products that rabbit owners purchase throughout the life of the rabbit. Petsmart stores realized this, and now carries a wide variety of rabbit supplies without carrying the rabbits themselves.
The best way to celebrate the Easter season would be to carry chocolate rabbits, or stuffed rabbit toys. These are great alternatives to live bunnies for parents, and will definitely delight children on Easter morning.
We thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and consider our proposal.