Adopting out Rabbits in the Animal Shelter
Rabbits will be more easily adopted if they are “displayed” in such a way as to make them seem like the fun, interesting, companions that they are. Cages should be outfitted with toys and litter boxes, to demonstrate that they are litter box trained and interactive; the cage should have a cage card filled out by an attentive staff member or volunteer with detailed information on the personality of the rabbit; and the shelter should have posters and flyers in different parts of the building extolling the virtues of adopting a rabbit. A rabbit can also be displayed in an x-pen in the front of the building to show off to the public. In addition, if the shelter has a store , merchandise should be sold which can demonstrate what wonderful companions rabbits are, such as a great variety of toys sold by rabbit-friendly companies.
Adoption Counseling and Materials
Rabbit adopters should receive rabbit-specific adoption counseling and a comprehensive adoption packet addressing general rabbit care issues, including education on rabbit handling and a strong recommendation to house rabbits indoors. House Rabbit Society has dozens of handouts available for animal shelters to use for this purpose. Families with children should be interviewed to ensure that the adults want the rabbit as much as the children do, and families with dogs need specific counseling on living with a dog and a rabbit.
An additional item that shelters can provide to adopters would be a copy of the House Rabbit Handbook. Potential rabbit adopters can also be asked to watch a video on living with a house rabbit before adoption. Finally, the pre-adoption interview should include making sure that the adopter knows what is needed to have a rabbit, and what items will need to be purchased (housing, litter box, toys, bowls, food, litter, etc.) as well as what needs to happen in the home before the rabbit can arrive ( bunny proofing, etc.).
What about paired rabbits?
Any rabbits who arrive at the shelter who arrive together as mates need to stay together. If they are not yet spayed or neutered, they need to be spayed and neutered immediately to prevent pregnancy and childbirth. But they should not be separated. Why not?
Paired rabbits form a very tight bond that is so strong that breaking up bonded rabbits causes depression, anxiety and anger. We’ve seen this when a rabbit loses a companion due to death, and we see this when rabbits in a shelter are broken up. Rabbits who have had their partners taken away before adoption often get returned because they are so angry after being separated that they being to bite. Keeping paired rabbits together doesn’t involve any extra work, the cage needed doesn’t need to be too much bigger, and simply involves marketing them as a pair, which most potential adopters will find charming.
In addition, the upside for the adopter is that the rabbits are already bonded. Very frequently, people adopt a rabbit and then decided that they want to get the rabbit a friend. Bonding rabbits can be difficult and can take weeks or even months. Getting two rabbits who are already bonded saves a huge amount of work!
Contract, Fee, and Spay Neuter
All rabbit adoptions should occur with a signed adoption contract and an adoption fee that is over $20. Under-age rabbits who are not yet neutered or spayed should be adopted with a spay/neuter deposit taken. The shelter should encourage adopters who live with a spayed or neutered rabbit to bring that rabbit in to meet a companion; volunteers and staffed should be trained to facilitate such bondings.