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Bunnies: Don't Release, Re-home

This year our island shelter, Nantucket Safe Harbor for Animals (NSHA), has had a record number of rabbits come in: they currently have 6 for adoption, and there are at least 9 who have been reported as “stray”—bunnies who have escaped or been purposely released into the wild. NSHA staff and volunteers have been working along with community members to help capture these bunnies and care for them until they can be re-homed.

Domestic rabbits are not the same as wild rabbits. House rabbits are intelligent, friendly, fun pets. They live to be 8-12 years old, can live indoors and be litter trained, they love toys and games, and they need care and attention for the duration of their lives. Having been raised indoors, and been fed by humans, they cannot survive in the wild. The cold temperatures of winter, our copious raptor population, dogs, feral and domestic cats, and cars are all very real threats to house bunnies who have been released or abandoned. Rabbits who have been released are also in unfamiliar territory, not knowing how to find food, water or shelter.  

It is illegal in Massachusetts to abandon (or release) a house rabbit—or ANY pet. Abandonment is considered animal cruelty, which in Massachusetts is now a felony carrying a sentence of up to five years in state prison, or up to 2.5 years in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. 

NSHA provides an alternative to releasing an unwanted pet, and they are always happy to take over care when a pet owner no longer can. NSHA accepts ANY animal, any time, and there is no surrender fee (though donations are always welcome to help care for all the animals). Their staff and volunteers are compassionate and discreet and will walk you through the sometimes difficult decision to surrender a pet. There is no shame in having to relinquish an animal—life situations sometimes make it far better to re-home an animal than to hold on when you can no longer give the pet all that he or she deserves. Further, you give someone the opportunity to adopt, rather than shop for, a pet, so you are helping to save a life, too! It’s a win-win.

If you have an animal that needs to be re-homed, are looking to adopt a pet, need help with a spay/neuter, or have questions about a pet’s behavior, call NSHA at 508-825-2287. They are our island resource for pets, and they look forward to assisting you. 

A Dog’s Life, Nantucket, explores the many dog (and other animal)-related issues on Nantucket. Stephanie Henke co-founded Nantucket Safe Harbor for Animals and created and manages Nantucket Dog Walk, a website dedicated to the many glorious dog walks on Nantucket.