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Rescued rabbits find new homes - Jun. 08, 2010


Kathy Bockus/Courier
Addie Smith, 10, a junior volunteer with the Charlotte County SPCA, holds an angora rabbit, seized by the Oromocto SPCA, one of about 75 bunnies from that same seizure that have come through St. Stephen on their way to House Rabbit Network rescue homes in the United States.

BY KATHY BOCKUS
kathy@stcroixcourier.ca
ST. STEPHEN – They’ve dubbed it “the Bun-derground railroad.”
About 75 angora bunnies of every colour and age have now travelled it on their way to House Rabbit Network shelters and new homes in the northeastern United States.
Those journeys began here in St. Stephen, thanks primarily to two women, brought together by one’s desire to adopt a cat and a dog and the other who found the perfect pets for her.
Lorraine Howard is a former Boston resident who now lives in Calais. Besides her dog and cat, she owns house rabbits as pets.
Gail Flaherty is a volunteer with the Charlotte County SPCA. When she met Howard during the dog and cat adoption process, she learned of the woman’s interest in rabbits.
So when the Oromocto SPCA shelter sent out a call for help to other SPCAs after it became the depository for some of the 160 angora rabbits seized at the beginning of May by the New Brunswick SPCA, Flaherty made a call to Howard and set some wheels in motion.
Flaherty asked Howard if she had any rabbit resources she could contact.
Howard did and called Suzanne Trayhan, the founder of the House Rabbit Network in Massachusetts with whom she was acquainted.
The HRN is a non-profit organization devoted to sheltering, adopting and educating the general public about pet rabbits.
Trayhan and her network contacted rabbit rescue affiliates in various states and found placements for 20 New Brunswick bunnies two weeks ago and Friday’s latest shipment of about 55.
“They’re great; I never knew they existed,” said Flaherty. “It’s a new experience for us. It’s been a great experience for us. It’s nice to know these guys are going to be pets and have a good life and there’s no danger they will be going back into the same situation they were in.”
“Gail is an extraordinary woman,” praised Howard. “Both she and the shelter she helps operate are a tremendous asset to your community and a very positive reflection of your town and the wonderful people in it.”
“It’s nice to know there are people out there who care, on both sides of the river.”
Tracey Marcotullio, manager of the Oromocto SPCA, said she was grateful for the support offered by the Flaherty and the American rabbit rescue effort. She said other SPCA shelters in New Brunswick also took some of the bunnies.
There are still nine – two adults and seven baby rabbits - at the Oromocto shelter waiting for adoption.
The shelter took a few at a time to treat for health problems. The animals were then spayed and neutered before being adopted. When asked if the rabbits were in bad shape, Marcotullio replied, “We’ve certainly seen worse.”
Howard was saddened by the condition of the bunnies she and Larry Clarke delivered to Massachusetts on Saturday.
“They need to be groomed, some have sores, some have abscesses and they all need to be spayed and neutered.”
Howard said many of the rabbits had fur mites and eye infections as well. The network people will take care of the rabbits’ needs.
Paul Melanson, NBSPCA chief inspector, said the SPCA was called in to assist the RCMP and Social Services in investigating a home in Oromocto.
No charges will be filed against the owners of the home where the rabbits were seized, he said.
Melanson said most of the rabbits were running loose in the home occupied by a family. He’s pleased the HRN became involved. He said if it hadn’t there is every likelihood many of the rabbits would have had to be euthanized.
Howard said rabbits make wonderful house pets. They’re social, have personality and can be litter box trained. “They are companion animals.
They don’t belong in the backyard in a hutch, they don’t belong with spinners who will pluck their wool, they are companions just like a dog or cat.”
She said they must never be kept on wood chips because the pine and cedar shavings emit an odour, toxic to the rabbits which can cause liver and kidney damage.
Howard praised Flaherty for also helping smooth the road for the bunnies venturing across the border that resulted in what she called a “bunny memo” being issued to the U.S. Border guards that allowed for ease of transport from St. Stephen into Calais and beyond.
She said there was a network of people who met her and Clarke Saturday afternoon; people from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York.
Some of the rabbits were flown to New York State in private planes by the Pilots and Paws volunteer network.