These days it’s hard to name a holiday that isn’t touched by commercialism. Christmas has Santa Clause, Valentines Day is commercialism at its best and Easter has the bunny.
While taking a photo with Santa or buying a loved one a rose has no serious ramifications, buying a living, breathing pet in the name of a holiday can.
Haviva Porter-Lush is the Executive Director at Rabbit Rescue Incorporated, an organization that shelters abandoned rabbits until permanent homes can be found. Porter-Lush says that shelters such as hers usually feel the effects of impulse buying at Easter time, later on in the summer, when the reality of owning a pet sets in.
“The first couple months everyone’s excited about this new baby bunny and kids are all interested,” she said. “Around three to six months [of age] they’re getting big, they’re not as cute and fluffy, and the kids just have lost interest, so the shelters become pretty full and we’re left trying to clean up the mess.”
Last year Toronto city councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker lead the charge at city council and successfully introduced a bylaw that makes it illegal for dogs and cats to be sold at Toronto pet stores. While smaller animals like rabbits were not included in the bylaw he says it doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future.
“I’ve never owned a dog, but I do own three cats and I see dogs in the park by my house every single day, so dogs and cats are sort of top of mind and in our face,” he said. “Rabbits are sort of not there yet … there needs to be a critical mass of people saying we need action.”
Porter-Lush says that rabbits purchased from pet stores keep bunny mills in operation, while shelter rabbits get euthanized.
“That’s why we exist really,” she said. “They’re the third most abandoned pet out there, after cats and dogs. It’s a huge problem, and most people don’t realize that you can get a rabbit at just about any shelter.”
To discourage people from impulse buying at Easter, Rabbit Rescue has been a part of campaigns such as the “make mine chocolate campaign,” where they encourage the purchase of a chocolate bunny instead of a real one.
De Baeremaeker said he is open to working with groups like Rabbit Rescue and encourages people to adopt from shelters instead buying from pet stores.
“If somebody really wants a rabbit this Easter weekend they shouldn’t go to a store and buy one,” he said. “They should go to a animal shelter and rescue one of those animals that desperately needs a loving home.”