By Jeannie Howard
For families and individuals looking to bring a new pet into their homes, cats and dogs are often the most popular choices; however, the House Rabbit Society of Richmond encourages people to consider rabbits for their next pet.
Inspired by Marinell Harriman’s book, The House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit, a group of like-minded individuals founded the House Rabbit Society in 1988. The organization’s mission from the beginning, according to Anne Martin, executive director of the Richmond chapter, has been to further educate their community on the proper care of rabbits. “From the beginning, the organization has been an educational and rescue organization for how people can live wonderful lives with indoor bunnies,” she said.
Over the past thirty years, the House Rabbit Society has spread from its original chapter in Richmond to 28 chapters throughout the United States and three internationally. While every chapter is an individual 501c3, they all work together, share information, and operate according to the same mission.
A major part of the work House Rabbit Society does is rescuing rabbits from shelters. “Rabbits are the third most surrendered animal to animal shelters, after cats and dogs; it is surprising to a lot of people,” shared Martin. “And, in our Bay Area shelters, 60 to 70% of the rabbits that come into the shelters are actually strays that accidentally escaped.” Given the large rate of surrender and strays, Martin said that anyone would be hard-pressed to find an animal shelter that did not have rabbits available for adoption. “They may not be right in the front cages, but if you ask they’ve got rabbits.”
Since the focus is often on cats and dogs being adopted, the rabbits that are available for adoption through animal shelters are typically forgotten, and, given the overcrowding issues that plague so many animal shelters, the fate of many rabbits ends in euthanasia. This is where the House Rabbits Society steps in; saving rabbits that are out of time. “We do not accept rabbits from the public, we just take the ones that don’t have any second chances left except us,” said Martin. “We run at capacity—we are always full—and there is a waiting list of rabbits that are on the euthanasia lists at California shelters just waiting to come here.”
To ensure a moving pipeline of rabbits from shelters to homes, the House Rabbit Society in Richmond is open six days a week to help people find the perfect companion rabbit. All of the rabbits available for adoption have received full health examinations, vaccinations, are microchipped, and have been spayed or neutered. Also included in the small adoption fee of $70 for a single rabbit, or $100 for a bonded pair, is a one-year membership to the House Rabbit Society, a $20 value, which includes the organization’s seasonal House Rabbit Journal as well as discounts for rabbit supplies.
Whether newbies or veteran rabbit owners, folks will find that the House Rabbit Society is an important resource. “I think a lot of us have experience with cats and dogs from growing up, but the conventional wisdom around rabbits is not always right,” shared Martin. “We have learned a lot about rabbit care in the last twenty years and the way we use to keep rabbits they just didn’t live very long and didn’t live the happiest, healthiest lives.”
In addition to educational and rescue activities, House Rabbits Society also offers rabbit boarding for a small nightly fee and has an on-site store carrying all of the supplies necessary to properly care for rabbits. “A lot of pet stores carry things that are not necessarily good for rabbits,” she said. “People can feel comfortable knowing that the products we carry are safe for their rabbits, and when people shop or board with us 100% of the profits support the organization.”
For anyone interested in bringing a rabbit into their family, or for those looking to assist the organization as a volunteer, Martin strongly encourages people to visit the House Rabbit Society. “We have volunteers and staff that are always happy to talk with people who have new rabbits or who have previous experience with rabbits,” she said. “Rabbits are fun and curious, and they are really enjoyable to spend time with; we encourage anyone looking to bring a rabbit into their home to go to a shelter or a rescue because there are so many out there that are looking for homes.”