The first contact came on a Sunday evening. The previous Friday, 119 rabbits had been seized, along with 30 dogs, in a cruelty case in the Memphis, TN area. The shelter where they were being held was not equipped to handle rabbits, and they needed to be moved out, or face euthanasia.
A post to the HRS educators’ list got the ball rolling. HRS Administrative Director Margo DeMello spoke with the shelter director on Monday and reported that the housing situation at the shelter was grim and shelter staff were stressed. A contact person from Rabbitwise Memphis was able to visit the rabbits, determine the genders of some of them, and assess the situation first-hand. There were now 90 rabbits, some of the initial group having been diagnosed with serious health problems and euthanized.
As the word spread, rescue groups started speaking up for these rabbits. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary sent out an email alert about these bunnies, which included this: “It’s hard to imagine what their lives have been like, but since babyhood they’ve never known what it’s like to live in a clean, cozy home or be loved and recognized for the special beings they are…. They are very interested in finding out what it would be like to live with a human friend and are hoping to hop into your life!
It was a matter of buying time for these rabbits until they could be adopted into permanent homes. Within several days, at least half a dozen groups pitched in to help by housing rabbits. These included Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville (a public shelter themselves); North Georgia House Rabbit Society; Cape Fear House Rabbit Society; The House Rabbit Connection of MA/CT; Arkansas Pet Rabbit Network; The House Rabbit Network of MA; Wild Rescue of Texas; and Alabama EARS/HRS. Transport was arranged through several groups, including Bunny Rescue of Nashville; The House Rabbit Connection; Humane Society of the United States in Tennessee; and the Bunderground Railroad.
Alabama EARS and National HRS contributed funds to help with spay/neuters. House Rabbit Society paid for the care of some of the Tennessee rabbits with funds generated from our Emergency Rescue Fund. You can help us with future cases like this one by donating to the fund.
By Sunday, one week to the day of the first report of these endangered bunnies, all the rabbits were out of the shelter and on their way to rescue groups. None too soon, as the Young-Williams shelter had been told that all the rabbits must be out of the shelter by the end of the weekend, due to limited space, or they would be euthanized.
This isn’t the end of the road for the bunnies or the rescue groups who are taking them, but 90 rabbits were saved in a matter of days by the actions and cooperation of dozens of people.
Rabbits are being bred, sold, surrendered to animal shelters, and euthanized every day in this country, and rabbit rescue groups and animal shelters large and small are fighting to care for too many rabbits with too few resources. It’s inspiring to see that when a small shelter, ill-equipped to handle a large rabbit crisis, reached out for help, groups like those listed below reached back. Each of these groups had prior rescue commitments and constraints, yet each did what they could. We’re grateful to all the dedicated rabbit people who make connections across borders, for the love of bunnies.
Participating Rescue Groups:
Bunny Rescue, Nashville
Young-Williams Animal Center, Knoxville
Arkansas Pet Rabbit Network
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Cape Fear HRS
House Rabbit Connection
House Rabbit Network of Massachusets
North Georgia HRS
Wild Rescue of Texas
By Kathy Burke
House Rabbit Journal Winter 2009: Volume V, Number 4