Dawn, a beige and grey dwarf bunny, has escaped Death’s clutches at least three times. The first two times it was because the snake she had been brought home to feed would not eat her. Dawn and the snake then shared the same address for another two years before she landed at San Francisco Animal Care and Control.
Dawn’s life was spared the third time by shelter staff who were moved by her past history. Fortunately space opened up at an HRS foster home before she ran out of time. Through the efforts of Bay Area foster parent Katie Dinneen, Dawn was rescued. Within a few weeks she found a home in the living room of Bill and Amy Harriman, where she leaps not in fear to escape a snake but rather in joy to delight a family of five.
“Bun-Bun” Walter had a traumatically similar experience. A tiny one-pound adult dwarf, she was found running from two dogs in the streets of Hollywood, Florida by Ruth Walter Dienes and her son, Grant. When, about two weeks after welcoming Bun-Bun into their home, Ruth noticed a hard lump on the bunny’s stomach, she contacted Sandy Koi of Rabbit Rescue, in Hollywood, Florida.
The lump was an infection that cultured as the same bacteria found in a snake bite. Some detective work uncovered that Bun-Bun had quite literally escaped from the jaws of Death. In fact, she had stared it right in the epiglottis! Bun-Bun had been in the process of being swallowed alive when the python coughed her back out because the rabbit was too big. Like any number of other bunnies who grow too large to be a reptile’s supper, Bun-Bun was then turned loose in the neighborhood to risk becoming some other predator’s meal.
After five months of convalescence at Sandi’s foster home, Bun-Bun had finally recovered from her wounds and returned to the Walter home.
Dawn and Bun-Bun are two of the compelling reasons why HRS advises shelters and individuals to charge a fee of at least $10 when placing a rabbit. This is not for any profit, but to discourage those who are looking for a cheap lunch-for themselves or their animals. Sadly, if Dawn had been adopted from that shelter, the adoption fee would have been just $5, or, to put it bluntly, about $2 per pound.1
And, for those people who think they’ve found a good home for a bunny they “don’t want anymore” by giving the rabbit to a zoo, they’re in for a shock. When asked what happens to the bunnies born in the children’s section of a metropolitan zoo, an employee confided to an HRS director that as the bunnies get older, they’re fed to the zoo’s birds of prey.
Food for Thought
The paradox of humans maintaining dogs, cats, snakes, falcons, and other carnivores (for whatever reasons) is WHO are they to be fed? Should it be based on one’s position on the food chain? Level of intelligence? Lack of cuteness?
A number of reptile folks have been heard to say, “I could never feed my snake a rabbit, but rats are okay.” There is, however, a growing group of people who are discovering that, like house rabbits, domestic rats (despite their history and those tails) are also wonderful companion animals.
One point to be made is that reptiles do not need to be fed live prey. According to exotic-animal veterinarian Jeffrey Bryan, DVM, 2 snakes should not be fed live or conscious animals due to the risk of serious injury to the snake. Although snakes need a diet of whole animals, it does not need to still be breathing or freshly killed; they can eat sustenance that has been frozen.
The difference between snake food and dog food is that one is neatly pre-packaged kibble, while the other (too often) tends to be more recognizable. Some of the most expensive canned cat and dog foods contain rabbit, so reading labels is important for everyone.
Viva Les Vegetarians!
In Peter Mayle’s book A Year in Provence, about life in the South of France, rabbits do not fare very well because often they end up as the main course. But, respect and the cuteness factor may be what has led so many house rabbit people to become avowed vegetarians. Seeing a bunny dozing in the litterbox, it’s not difficult to imagine a rabbit on a dinner plate. Such an image can serve to put a face on other meat, as well.
The old maxim that there’s no such thing as a free lunch is painfully true. Happily though, Dawn and Bun-Bun Walter are free to enjoy many more lunches. *
by Beth Woolbright; Photographs by Sandy Koi
1. Another reason not to give animals away for free: some end up being sold to labs to be used in experiments.
2. Dr. Bryan practices at Irving Street Veterinary Hospital in San Francisco.
House Rabbit Journal Volume III, Number 7, Spring 1996