Since the founding of House Rabbit Society in 1988, we have grown from a handful of fosterers in the San Francisco Bay Area to having 27 chapters in 21 states-plus chapters in Canada and Italy. We have educators and fosterers in an additional 13 states plus Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. We have 183 licensed national volunteers and hundreds of chapter volunteers around the world. How did this incredible growth occur? Our paper publication, The House Rabbit Journal, was the original vehicle. Through HRJ, our readers shared love for their rabbits, motivating a grass roots movement that sustained our mission: to find ideal homes for unwanted domestic rabbits; and promote standards for their care. Through HRJ, we gathered valuable rabbit behavior and health information; found a voice to protest mistreatment; and documented the joy of living with this amazing species.
As HRS members continued to talk to one another, the technology that we used changed as well. In the early days, we communicated with each other and with the public the old fashioned way: via phone calls and snail mail. Because we had a high number of creative and tech-savvy volunteers, we began using the Internet in the early 1990s to build a presence on the early newsgroups devoted to rabbits and their guardians, a presence that continues throughout the Internet today.
As our members met and talked, they not only supported one another but added to our growing resources. More and more members offered to help. Our supporters increased from 300 in 1988 to over 10,000 today, and our budget has expanded from a few thousand dollars per year to over $120,000 (for the national organization alone). Volunteers around the country have given hundreds of classes at humane societies and community centers, as well as hundreds of television, print and radio interviews. We have rescued an average of 1500-2000 rabbits per year, and with 2008, we are approaching our 20,000th rescue.
Our educational program was mounted to our website, which went online in 1994 and in 1996 became rabbit.org. Chapters publish their own newsletters and have their own websites, expanding further the scope of their outreach.
House Rabbit Society held the first-ever rabbit-only veterinary conference in March 1997, which allowed us to begin saving money to purchase our own building. This effort got a further boost in 1998 when we held the 10th Leap, our tenth anniversary celebration in Oakland. By early 2000, we had enough donations for a down payment on a building. In November 2000, we opened our Adoption and Education Center, in Richmond, California, which serves as national headquarters.
As our budget has expanded, it has both posed new fundraising challenges (when expenses rise more than income) but has allowed us to expand our programs as well, by allowing the funding of the chapter grant program, established in 2005, and our emergency rescue fund program, established in 2007.
As we enter our third decade of operations, we hope to continue our expansion. Our intention is to rescue thousands of rabbits and help thousands of rabbit caretakers, until the mission of HRS is fulfilled. We continue to hold, as we did 20 years ago, a vision that all domestic rabbits be given “the same individual rights, level of care, and opportunity for longevity as commonly afforded to dogs and cats.” We couldn’t have done it, and we can’t do it now, without your help.
House Rabbit Journal Winter 2008: Volume V, Number 3