Yapping

Marcy Schaaf: Founder and executive director, SaveABunny

Honey Boo Boo, a former meat rabbit breeder, was recently adopted (photo: renee dodge)

How did you get involved with bunny rescue?

I found a rabbit while walking my dog. I knew virtually nothing about rabbits except that this particular rabbit was not a wild rabbit (she was white and brown). Many people don’t know that wild rabbits and domestic rabbits are not even the same species. They can’t interbreed with wild rabbits. Domestic rabbits can’t survive if released, and wild rabbits don’t tame as indoor pets.

My only other experiences with rabbits had not been that good. As a very young child, my family had an outdoor hutch rabbit, which met a very common fate for outdoor rabbits — she was killed by some sort of predator. And when I was in third grade, we took home the class rabbit. I remember sitting outside with her feeding her grass and raisins (not good). She died overnight. Given what I now know about rabbit care, her life as a class rabbit was stressful, unnatural for a prey animal, and the care she received was inconsistent as she went from home to home. I was a bit traumatized and as such, as an adult, I took great pains to teach myself proper rabbit care. The rabbit I found was incredibly smart, got along great with our cats and dog, and opened my eyes to how special these misunderstood little beings are — and how much they deserve equal love and advocacy devoted to other companion animals.

Tell us about your organization.

SaveABunny is an award-winning, 501(c)(3) nonprofit rabbit rescue organization based in Northern California. We work with over 30 shelters to make sure abandoned, abused, and neglected rabbits get the second chance they deserve. In addition to helping adoptable rabbits find their forever homes, we specialize in healing physically wounded and emotionally traumatized rabbits by integrating extraordinary Western veterinary care with Eastern healing arts.

Rescue work is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Since being founded in 1999, SaveABunny has been involved with the life-saving rescue of close to 5,000 rabbits. Yet, we are still a small, scrappy, resourceful, volunteer-based (yet professionally run) group. We are funded by donations and we rely on community involvement, compassion, and support. We welcome volunteers from all walks of life who want to share their time and talents to save precious lives. Saving the life of a gentle, loving animal that would otherwise be euthanized is a profound experience that will change your life for the better.

What is the biggest challenge facing your rescue right now?

While there is a high level of public awareness and resources for dogs and cats, there are few options for rabbits. Although rabbits are now one of the nation’s most popular pets, they are also the third most euthanized animal. There are few shelters that assist rabbits and virtually no funds for the care of sick and injured bunnies. For example, San Francisco Animal Care and Control (ACC) is the only shelter that assists rabbits in San Francisco. The San Francisco SPCA and Maddie’s Fund are limited to cats and dogs. SaveABunny is the only rescue resource for all injured, abused, and neglected rabbits in San Francisco, and we are funded completely by donations.

Also, awareness of and proper care of companion rabbits lags far behind other pets. Unfortunately, bunnies hold a sad and unique place as the only companion animal and American pet still killed for its fur and meat. If restaurants served dog, cat, or horsemeat on their menus, there would be widespread outrage and condemnation. This is not true for rabbits. The trend for rabbit meats as an “organic, sustainable meat” is growing in San Francisco and beyond. The rabbits raised and slaughtered for meat are the exact same breed as those loving, adorable rabbits available as family pets. We have rescued “meat” rabbits that have been the most loving rabbits I have ever met. Terms like “organic,” “humanely raised,” and “sustainable” do not mean “cruelty free.” People should be aware that when they eat rabbit meat they are essentially eating a pet.

What are some of the qualities that make bunnies great companions?

Just like a cat or a dog, each rabbit has a very distinct personality. Some are shy, some bold, some quiet, some goofy, etc. They are as intelligent as cats and dogs and bond with their human guardians and rabbit friends for life. They are sensitive, opinionated, and affectionate. When spayed or neutered, rabbits can use a litter box, just like a cat. They are clean, quiet, vegan animals (no stinky food or poop!). With proper care, rabbits can live to be more than 10 years old. They are an ideal companion pet for an adult caregiver who enjoys allowing an animal to be itself and doesn’t need to “control” the animal, as one might a dog. In some ways, rabbits are more similar to cats. They choose to be with you. Rabbit fans appreciate that bunnies are inquisitive, sometimes naughty, always persistent, forgiving, loving creatures. Rabbits are also most active morning and evening, though they are not nocturnal. They sleep a lot during the day, so they make great pets for people who work. There’s no walking a pet in the rain at 11 p.m.!

What is the age range of the bunnies at your rescue?

Babies to 14 years old.

A bunny I’d really like to see adopted is …

Heaven Lee. She came to SaveABunny on Sept. 11, 2011, as a critically wounded baby. A Good Samaritan found her near Candlestick Park at a homeless encampment and took her to ACC. She had been attacked by something, and the entire front part of her body was ripped open from her groin to her neck. ACC called us to see if we wanted to attempt to save her. We took her, got her emergency surgery ($1,000) and incredibly, she healed within a month. I was so protective of her that I was reluctant to let anyone adopt her, so she’s now been here longer than ideal. She is a bunny diva and princess. She’s gorgeous, opinionated, funny, active, and ready for a home of her own where she will be protected and treasured!

Heaven Lee was rescued as a critically wounded baby in 2011 and is still waiting for her forever home ( photo: renee dodge)

A bunny that is a great success story is …

Honey Boo Boo, who was adopted along with another bunny in May. We rescued her and 28 other rabbits in February from horrific conditions in Sacramento where they were being raised for meat. She was one of the breeder mothers. She lived in a tiny wire cage where she could just barely turn around. She was right next to where her babies were butchered. Despite her sad beginning, she blossomed into a sweet, gentle, patient, and very loving bunny, and she now lives with a family that adores her and two rabbit friends. She has free run of their house and lots of toys to play with!

Where can people find out more, see adoptable bunnies, volunteer, foster, or donate?

Our website is saveabunny.org, and there are sections for adopting as well as volunteering and fostering. You can also make a donation online. SaveABunny is an approved 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization (EIN# 80-0243372). Please check with your employer for corporate matching donations. We also have a very active and fun Facebook page at Facebook.com/SaveABunny.

What are the upcoming events for SaveABunny?

Maddie’s Adoption Event at the San Francisco SPCA (201 Alabama Street) and San Francisco Animal Care and Control (1200 15th Street) — the cross street for both is Harrison Street — Saturday and Sunday, May 31–June 1, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and Bunny Day at the SPCA on Saturday, June 14, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.. You can find more information about events at saveabunny.org/events. We also see potential adopters seven days a week by appointment.

SaveABunny: P.O. Box 2143, Mill Valley, CA 94942, 415-388-2790, saveabunny.org

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