Archive for May, 2008

Meet some awesome people and some awesome rabbits this June 9 at SaveABunny

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Announcing a new meeting for Rabbit Lovers and Helpers!

What: Welcome Meeting At SaveABunny –RSVP Required

When: Monday, June 9, 7:00 PM

Where: SaveABunny (located in a residential area in
Marin County) on Monday June 9th at 7PM.

Who should come: People who love animals and want to make a difference in a fun way.

This is the first meeting and general get together at SaveABunny rabbit rescue. Meet and groom cute and loving rescued rabbits, chat with fellow animal lovers, and enjoy a nice evening.
There’s only one requirement for guests: you have to be genuinely interested in helping rabbits! Don’t come if you’re looking for some deep-fried lagomorph or a lengthy argument about the cosmetics industry. I don’t know why you would be reading this blog if those were your plans… but just in case. Don’t come.
Why: Our goal is to bring together a fun, compassionate and reliable group of people who want to share their love of companion rabbits.
Get to know the fun, creative people that make up the SaveABunny community, and hang out with the bunnies – they need socializing too!

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet an incredible variety of
rabbits, learn more about proper rabbit care and help set the activities of this new
meet-up group on behalf of SaveABunny and rabbit rescue
efforts across the entire SF Bay area.

We will serve vegetarian snacks, wine and soda. If you’d like to bring a
vegetarian dish to share, please let us know in your RSVP.

Any suggestions for our first rabbit meet-up? Let us

Have fun while you help animals. See you soon!

Click here to RSVP and learn more.

When bunny teeth go bad.

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

There are many problems with other pets that bunny owners never have to deal with. For instance, a bunny will never eat cat poo and then try to lick your face. A bunny will never get stuck in the neighbor’s tree, forcing you into the embarrassing, if humorous, position of calling the fire department to get it down. A bunny will never slither away into the ventilation system of your apartment building, only to be found months later after swallowing an entire rat whole and getting stuck in a gas pipe.

But there are many issues bunny owners face that other pet owners have never heard of and will probably never understand. This is the first in a series of entries about bunny-specific medical and behavioral issues that we come across at SaveABunny. The stories don’t always end happily, but awareness is generally the best prevention, so we’re going to share what we know. Hopefully we’ll help potential bunny owners understand the responsibilities of caring for a rabbit, and help out some troubled, confused, or curious bunny owners at the same time.

We currently have a bunny named Brazil who has a malocclusion. We saved her from the euthanization list at an overcrowded South Bay shelter. Euthanization is the usual fate of bunnies with severe malocclusion – the surgery is expensive, and without it bunnies can suffer for years or even starve to death. We’re not OK with that.

Also, did I mention Brazil is a ridiculously adorable little lop-eared girl?

As you can see, she’s otherwise completely adoptable in all respects. She just has bad teeth. So we had to save her, even though we might not have the funds to pay her vet bills. At least with us, she would have the precious time she needed to find a generous sponsor.

When a bunny gets a malocclusion, it means that for whatever reason, the teeth have become misaligned or malformed, causing discomfort and pain for the bunny. Here’s a quote from Veterinarian Margaret A. Wissman:

“The causes of malocclusion are usually multifactorial, and can include infectious, genetic and traumatic causes. The chewing action of the rabbit is both vertical and horizontal which provides a grinding type of action that keeps the occlusal (the opposing surfaces of the teeth that meet normally) surfaces evenly worn. If the mandible (lower jaw) is too short or too narrow, this will result in the misalignment of the teeth. Once teeth are misaligned, they will no longer grind down correctly.”

(Read the full article here.)

Since a rabbit’s teeth grow faster than your fingernails, it’s pretty important that they get ground down properly. (This is why rabbits are always chewing on everything in sight.) In bad cases of malocclusion, the teeth essentially grow out into tusks and prohibit the rabbit from being able to eat anything at all. They can get infected, disformed, and cause all kinds of other problems for the bunny’s delicate mouth tissue. Usually, a rabbit with misaligned teeth will do OK as long they get them trimmed regularly – but it does cause them a lot of stress. Imagine if you had to go to the dentist every few weeks for the rest of your life!

Often, as in Brazil’s case, the teeth have to be removed completely. Since the roots go far back in the bunny’s jaw, the surgery is a bit more complicated than it would be for animals like dogs, cats, or people.

As far as preventing malocclusion, the best answer I’ve found is keeping plenty of fiber in your bunny’s diet and having lots of good things to chew on. Sometimes it’s hereditary, and there’s not much you can do.

It’s easy to check for malocclusion – just regularly look at your bunny’s teeth and make sure they seem normal. If you’re not sure, ask your veterinarian.

Because malocclusion is often hereditary, baby rabbits who have it are usually euthanized to keep the condition out of the gene pool. (Definitely not our recommendation.) This is another really, really good reason to always spay or neuter your rabbits.

Little Brazil was lucky enough to find a sponsor, by the way – one of our awesome volunteers generously donated $500 for her surgery. She still needs a home – but at least she has the chance to find one now.

If you have any input on malocclusion, whether it’s something I forgot in this blog, or something I got wrong, or a story of your own, please share in the comments section! We love to keep the conversation going and learn new things.

If you think your bunny is suffering from malocclusion, take him or her to a veterinarian.

If you want to see more cute pictures of Brazil and maybe, just maybe, foster or adopt her, check out her page on the SaveABunny site.

Confessions. And a useful link.

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Seeing as how this blog was only started about a month ago, I don’t expect anyone other than core SaveABunny members to know what I’m about to tell you. However, I think it’s important for the integrity of the blog, and interestingness of future blog entries, for me to share this:

I don’t actually have a pet bunny. …And I’ve never had one. In fact, I’d never even met anyone who had one until I met Marcy, founder of SaveABunny, a few months ago.

I feel a little bit like this makes me a huge phony, a fraud, and/or an impostor – but in fact, when I look at the big picture, it kind of makes me the perfect person to write this blog. This is because, like many of the people who I hope read this, I intend on becoming a bunny fosterer very soon.

I will briefly (relatively speaking) and honestly summarize the story of why I chose to foster a rabbit. I’m also asking for any of our other current, previous, or future SaveABunny fosterers to share your stories in the comments section, for the benefit of our readers who are considering fostering, or who just like reading stories with bunnies in them.

Here’s mine:
As a young, apartment-dwelling, San Franciscan college student, I have had many challenges in finding an animal to share my home with. I’m sure some of them will be familiar to you, no matter where you live. I like lists, so here they are in list form:

1. College is really expensive, and most pets do not enjoy eating ramen noodles. In fact, there was a time when I seriously, but very briefly, considered eating pet food myself when I found some unopened cans of Friskies in the basement.

2. Building owners are jerks. Many apartments don’t allow pets at all. My plans to find a cute pet, or any pet at all, went on hold for years at a time.

3. Roommates, boyfriends, and the rare but serious condition that happens when they intersect. Living with other people can be cool, and it can suck. When it’s cool, they were allergic to everything, and when it sucked, I didn’t want to subject a helpless animal to their mess/odor/clumsiness (I’m clumsy enough by myself – with two of us stumbling around, small animals are bound to get tripped over.)

4. The litterbox dilemma. “Do I want a dog that I have to walk outside to let poop, or do I want a pet that poops in my home?” Oooooh, that’s a tough one. Luckily I have a really terrible sense of smell, so I decided the litterbox was completely tolerable if the pet was cute enough.

5. I practically lived in a litterbox myself. Seriously. Every apartment in San Francisco that a college student can afford is just barely big enough for 1 animal: yourself. And I had roommates/boyfriends.

Luckily, challenges 1, 2, 3, and 5 are now being solved without the failure of a sensory organ! I have a great job at an ad agency and no longer have to eat ramen noodles. (Although I’ll admit I kind of like them now.) My next door neighbor has a big, fluffy cat that scratches the hell out of her door all night long (I can hear it, it’s kind of scary), so I can only assume the building management doesn’t care what kind of animal I have in my apartment. I’m going to be living alone for the first time starting this summer, leaving space in my home and schedule for a pet, while simultaneously reducing the chances of any tragic accidents caused by clumsiness, or antihistamine overdose. And last but not least, I finally have a normal apartment with a bedroom AND a living room! It’s so unbelievably amazing I can’t even begin to describe it. Oh, and I graduated college last week. (Now I have time to write more blogs! Everyone wins!)

So now that the major obstacles are gone, what kind of pet do I get? I’ve had a long time to think about this. I’ve nixed dog, because my mom comes to visit sometimes and she’s allergic to them. I’ve nixed cat, because my boyfriend was allergic to them. I’ve nixed fish because they’re boring. I’ve nixed muntjac deer because they’re illegal to keep as pets in the state of California, as well as about 25 other awesome pets that I considered. Finally I researched bunnies after learning that some people keep them in their homes. I found the SaveABunny website and began to visualize myself as a bunny owner.

I’d been slowly falling in love with the idea of having a bunny for a roommate instead of a person when two important things happened: 1) I made a drunken New Year’s Resolution to do some volunteering, and 2) the universe guffawed at my pathetic attempt to graduate college and put me in Professor Erdman’s astronomy class. Extremely necessary extra credit assignment: volunteer. I called up SaveABunny.

As everything fell into place and I learned all about bunnies and saving them, I knew I would have to, at some point, adopt one. How could I not? Marcy suggested I foster first. It made a lot of sense.

So that’s the plan. I am now in the process of slowly bunny-proofing my home, and learning as much as I can about bunnies – not just for myself, but for this blog, so that I can write about them without giving away the fact that I’ve never lived with one. My current resource: The Language of Lagomorphs.

I’m going post updates on my little adventure of trying to foster a bunny, for the benefit of those readers who are considering it themselves, and the entertainment of those who have already been there and now actually know what they’re doing. I’ll share resources that I find and do the best I can to explain the pitfalls so that you can avoid them. If you have any advice, recommendations, or stories of your own, please share them with us in the comments section!

Oh, and wish me luck!

A reminder for all sad, mistreated bunnies who somehow have internet access: There’s Hope Out There!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

We do lots of rescues at SaveABunny – big ones, small ones, really, really sad ones, and just kind of sad ones – but earlier this year we had a rescue that was both big and really, really sad. If you’ve been following us (or you watch View From The Bay every afternoon) you might remember back in February when we rescued 29 bunnies that had been severely neglected. Here’s the clip if you didn’t catch it back then:

Sadly three of those bunnies were lost to us because of their injuries. That’s what moved the rescue from “Really Sad” status to “Really, Really Sad” status. But the progress we’ve had rehabilitating the 26 bunnies that we saved has been really exciting, and I want to share one example with you to spread hope for hopeless bunnies everywhere. Meet Lionel Barrymore:

Granted, he still looks a little worse-for-ware with that big bare patch on his side, but to get some perspective, this is what he looked like when we first brought him in:

Sorry you had to see that. I’ll add some space here you can scroll past it…

Anyway, Lionel has gone through some tough times. But the amazing part of his story that gives us all hope is that, even after the neglect and trauma that he went through, he is now a healthy, happy, and very sweet little bunny rabbit. (Who, by the way, would be a fabulous addition to any home.) It’s proof that every bunny, even when things seem hopeless, is worth saving.

Check out Lionel’s page on the SaveABunny site.

Read more about the large-scale rescue back in February, and see more video footage of the rabbits.

Hare-brained Coworkers?

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

One of our volunteers, Mark, captured this great shot of his two bunnies, Maryann and Dono, helping out with some filing in his cubicle.

The very next day, he found out was having a pets-at-work-themed photo contest!

Mark has this to say:

“If you could stop by and register on the website (it’s real easy) and
vote once or twice a week for my babies, it would help. One of the
prizes is a cash donation to a shelter of my choice and of course that
would be going to Save A Bunny.”

Thanks Mark! We’re wishing him the best of luck, but the only way to win is by getting plenty of votes, so help out by voting! Vote for Maryann and Dono here.

If you don’t have a login with Petsource, you’ll have to sign up – but it’s easy and totally worth it. I did it at work and timed it for you: almost exactly one minute.

Bunnies – they’re not just our friends, they’re our… fertilizer machines?

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Although it’s not typically a subject we use to promote SaveABunny, we thought we knew everything about… well, rabbit droppings. But we recently learned something new: It may not be a pretty job emptying the litter boxes of 100+ rabbits every day, but all that bunny poo can actually be used to make our gardens prettier.

It makes sense if you think about it – bunnies in the wild eat plants all day, so naturally what goes back into the ground would help the plants be healthier – making more food for bunnies. Nature is full of these beautifully effective recycling systems.

Here’s what we learned from Sloat Garden Guru:

“Rabbit droppings as well as their bedding and uneaten food do in fact make excellent fertilizer/compost. The easiest method would be to passively compost the cage cleanings in a large rubber/plastic garbage can in which holes have been drilled on the bottom and sides. Kitchen scraps are welcome additions (no meat or orange peel) Passive Compost means you don’t turn it. Active is when you stir it.The bottom of the can should be in contact with the earth and the lid should fit snuggly. The holes at the bottom allow natural soil bacteria, decomposing fungi and beneficial bugs and worms to gain access . Watering is probably not necessary. By this method, you could possibly have 2 to 4 “crops” a year. Apply this rich compost around any and all plants in spring, summer and fall. Vegetables, annuals, and flowering shrubs will benefit the most.You will know it’s ready because it will have turned brown and will smell earthy.”

SaveABunny at the PFAC conference

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Thanks to a very generous donation from one of the directors of PFAC (Professional Fiduciary Group of California), we will have a booth at their conference this year to educate people about rabbits as indoor companions for home bound people.

(If you’re curious as to what exactly a fiduciary is, we looked it up the PFAC website: “A fiduciary is a person who assumes responsibility for a position of trust. …Fiduciaries serve by court appointment as guardians, conservators and personal representatives of estates. They also serve by agreement as trustees, representative payees or as agents under powers of attorney.”)

Each person that a PFAC fiduciary represents has a live-in caregiver. At SaveABunny, we think rabbits as companion animals would both benefit the quality of life for people in care programs, as well as provide a foster and volunteer resource for our rabbits. It’s an interesting new direction for us that we’re excited to be exploring.

The conference is being held at the San Francisco Airport Marriott in Burlingame. Exhibit hours are Wednesday, May 7th 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., Thursday & Friday May 8th and 9th 8:00 to 4:00 p.m. Learn more at the PFAC website.

Part of the inspiration for the donation was the work we do with one of our bunnies, Scooter, for special-needs groups like Blind Babies. Learn more about Scooter and the important work he does on the SaveABunny website.

Saving Bunnies.

Sunday, May 4th, 2008

When you go to the SaveABunny website, on the surface we might look like a bunch of bunnies looking as cute as possible (which is really not that hard) to get adopted into loving homes. But behind all the floppy ears and purple web pages, we’re a team of hard-working, dedicated humans. We spend our days – and nights – making sure bunnies all over the Northern California get the second chance they deserve.

So as our first SaveABunny Blog post, I’d like to share a little piece of what goes into saving bunnies on an average day. (Also, I should introduce myself. I’m Thea – volunteer writer. I squeeze in writing for the website and this blog, among other things, into my schedule as a part-time student and copywriter at a local ad agency.)

Last Thursday, Marcy, the founder and head cheerleader of SaveABunny, and I made a stop at San Francisco Animal Care and Control. The shelter was overcrowded and they’d given us a call asking for rescue assistance. It was my first time visiting this (or any) animal shelter, but Marcy is a regular there. The staff all know her, and greeted us with a casual familiarity. They were kind enough to let us drop in well after closing hours, around 7:45. Having just come from a SaveABunny team meeting, were more rushed than we should have been. Lights-out was at 8, but squeezing in those few minutes to check out the new bunnies would mean a world of difference for some of them.

You see, while SaveABunny bunnies are promised love and care for their whole lives, whether they get adopted or not, most shelter rabbits have no such guarantee. Just like all the cats, dogs, rodents, reptiles and other animals that end up at crowded animal shelters, bunnies that don’t get adopted get euthanized. No matter how cute they are.

So our mission at Animal Care and Control was to meet the new bunnies that had arrived and get to know them a little, checking their health and temperament. Our immediate goal for rabbits there is to keep them from being euthanized. No one at San Francisco Animal Control wants to euthanize them – that’s why they call us – but when they run out of room for them, they don’t have a choice. We also post bunnies from local shelters on the website when we don’t have room for them at our facilities in Marin, because it increases their chances for adoption. If we’d had more time and more space, we would’ve taken a few of them with us.

There’s no set rule as to which bunnies we take into rescue – sometimes we’ll find one that has little to no chance of getting adopted, so we take him or her under our wing. Sometimes, we find exceptionally adoptable bunnies that would find homes quickly at a different shelter. Sometimes we meet bunnies that have been traumatized, and with a little hard work and a lot of love, we’re sure they’ll find a home. All they need is time. Unfortunately, it’s time that shelters just can’t afford to give them. So we take those ones, too, and hope that help will come forward.

We entered Room 225 at Animal Care and Control. It was a small room, with cages stacked higher than my head. There were about 13 bunnies in there – plus one guinea pig, a chicken, two rats, a tiny gray mouse and one quail that had been rescued from the back of restaurant. He pecked away happily at a bowl of seeds, occasionally letting out a curious “Squawk!”

We checked up on the bunnies one by one. They all had their own reactions to us – some excited, some timid, some just casually looking up between mouthfuls of the newspaper that lined their cages. Each and every cage had a sign with a big blue stamp on it: “AVAILABLE”.

Many of these were bunnies that Marcy had already met – and most of them looked like they had a decent chance of getting adopted. While she made sure they were all still doing fine, I asked her about the little quail in the corner.

She answered wearily, “Oh, he’ll probably be euthanized. It’s illegal to keep quails as pets, and he’s not releasable because he was raised for food.” According to California state law, no “wild animal” can be kept or sold as a pet. Wild animals are defined species by species, not case-by-case.

“So you mean no one can adopt him?”

“Nope. He’ll almost definitely be euthanized.” I know it’s as heartbreaking for her as anyone else, but she said it almost nonchalantly. I realized why – this happens to animals here (and everywhere else) every day. You just have to do what you can, knowing that you can never save them all. But I couldn’t help feeling especially bad for this little feathery guy. He’d been put in a catch-22 by a combination of well-meaning human rescue efforts and well-meaning human law.

At least bunnies are legal pets. That’s one thing that makes our job easier – and we have to count our blessings sometimes.

Marcy and I moved on to an even smaller room across the hall. If it had been earlier in the day, we would’ve spent some quality one-on-one time with each bunny, making sure they stay friendly and happy. They’re social animals, like dogs and birds (and people), so even the shy ones crave interaction and attention.

This tiny room was where the new bunnies were. Many of them had been bought at a local pet store and then left at the shelter when they were no longer wanted. They weren’t all as well off as the others. Two had just come back from surgery and had big signs on their cages asking to be handled extra gently. One gold flop-eared bunny was huddled in a corner, shivering. I wondered what had made her so timid. A little black dwarf rabbit had been mistreated a different way – she was grotesquely overweight; probably two pounds over her healthy 1.5 pounds. That’s like a human weighing 350 pounds.

We took photos of each one and their charts, to review later. We checked them all for general health – clean, soft fur, healthy toes, and straight teeth. One of many new things I learned was that a bunny with crooked teeth is all but unadoptable; without expensive surgery, he won’t able to eat properly, and he’ll be malnourished. How expensive is the surgery?

“Hundreds and hundreds of dollars,” Marcy answered.

I also learned that there’s a trick to handling these bunnies – sweetness. Marcy took extra care to pet each one and say a few comforting words. A little rub around the ears can go a long way.

She took extra time with the gold flop-eared bunny. When you talk to them, for the most part it doesn’t matter what you say, (although bunnies can usually learn their own names, and possibly a few other words,) what seems to matter is that you’re gentle, soft-spoken and let your genuine concern show in your voice. Marcy had perfected these.

“Hey honey, it’s ok, yeah. It’s ok. I’m sorry. People can really suck, huh? I’m sorry.” She said it softly over and over, and our flop-eared friend seemed to slowly but surely calm down. When Marcy finally closed her cage, she hopped up to look back out at us, completely transformed from a shivering furry lump into a beautiful, outgoing rabbit girl. I was amazed.

“Sometimes they just know rabbit people, and they open up to them,” Marcy explained. But I suspect almost anyone could be a “rabbit person” if they took the time to learn how these special animals work.

As we left, the words Marcy had repeated to the gold bunny also repeated in my head. “People suck.” It was so easy to think that, coming out of the animal shelter. But a little nagging voice in my head argued back, “Wait – not all people suck. We’re here, aren’t we?”