Amy Espie

The Conscience of Early HRS, and the broader house rabbit movement that followed

In April 2009, the rabbit community as well as the animal community lost one of its greatest advocates, Amy Espie.

When you browse and search, look at the classic images of house rabbits. You will see Amy (Shapiro) Espie’s photos serenely representing bunnies, who enjoy the respect we know they deserve. These are among the many gifts from Amy Espie.

a house rabbit and two cats in an office

Amy’s sudden death was a great loss to House Rabbit Society, its rabbits, as well as the other animals affected by her passing. But as she used to say about any animal in her care, we celebrate the joy of the life rather than the sadness of the death. So with that in mind, we will focus the good things she has done.

Amy began her volunteer work as a photographer for the San Francisco SPCA in the mid 1980s. She also became a fosterer for the Berkeley Humane Society and a dog trainer at the Peninsula Humane Society, where she met her husband Charlie Espie.

From the time I first met Amy in 1984, while working on the House Rabbit Handbook, I’ve been inspired by her purity of motive. Nothing was ever self-serving. And while facing sad realities every day, she managed to focus on the beauty of animal rescue.

As one of the founding directors of House Rabbit Society in 1988, Amy pushed HRS into being more than just a hobby club, but rather a bona fide rescue organization. For more than twenty years, she was known as the conscience of that organization. She leaves us with more than photo images and a body of written work, she has left us with a philosophy.

When Amy and Charlie moved from California, they set up an animal sanctuary in Virginia. Amy continued HRS work as the behavior editor for the House Rabbit Journal, in addition to answering online questions for People all over the world are moved by her articles.

Amy had no ego whatsoever. Her driving ambition was solely to promote the best interests of animals. Though brimming with aesthetic talent and gifted as a writer, she desired no praise for herself. Praise could only be directed toward the animals. She made no compromises in choosing their best interests. In order to know what Amy was like, you only had to look at the contentment of her animals.

  • Marinell Harriman

    Marinell Harriman is the author of The House Rabbit Handbook. Over the past 35 years she has fostered and rescued hundreds of rabbits. She has published numerous articles on house rabbit philosophy, care, and behavior. She has a special place in her heart for disabled and special needs rabbits.

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