cover-storyIssue 15

The Real Story of Abandoned Easter Bunnies

Bunny Rescue (6 of 25)BY ALEX CANTATORE

Most people have fond memories of the Easter Bunny, of pastel-dyed eggs and sweet chocolate treats.

But for Randy Koga, founder of Trinket’s Memorial Rabbit Sanctuary, “Easter bunny” is a four-letter word.

“Easter is awful for me,” Koga says with a grimace.

It’s become an epidemic, he says. More and more families bring real-life Easter bunnies into their homes, and more and more people just throw them away.

Few locals know more about rabbits than Koga. He’s run Trinket’s Memorial Rabbit Sanctuary since 2011, fostering bunnies out of his central Ceres home. Hundreds of rabbits have a new lease on life thanks to Koga.

This time of year, Koga spends some of his valuable time trying to slow down the Easter rush. He walks around the Ceres Flea Market with a few of his rabbits in a stroller, telling anyone who’ll listen about the commitment and costs that come alongside rabbit ownership.
“I try to tell people your child is going to get tired of that bunny,” Koga said. “It’s not a starter pet.”

Few people are prepared to care for a rabbit for its 10 to 12 year lifespan. To give a rabbit the space it needs to roam; small cages are “only good as litter boxes,” Koga says. Or to pay the extraordinarily high veterinary bills for these fragile, “exotic” pets.

Of course, the flea market vendors don’t tell customers these things. They don’t want to lose a sale.

“The vendor doesn’t care if they live or die,” Koga says, telling of baby bunnies that are too young to sell. He grimly notes that a death might be better for the vendor; it may result in the sale of a replacement.

If the rabbit lives, it’s likely to be a house pet for only a few weeks. A month or two, at most. Then it ends up abandoned in a park, or set “free” in a neighborhood, finding shelter in an abandoned shed.

More and more families bring real-life Easter Bunnies into their homes, and more and more people just throw them away.

There, the bunnies often meet other abandoned bunnies. And they start breeding.

Koga can’t save them all. In the beginning, the rabbits came trickling in; nowadays, it’s a flood of fur. “I can’t take any more,” Koga said. “I have nowhere to put them.”

He has more than 50 rabbits in his home as we speak, the aftereffects of a large-scale rescue in Fresno. Koga didn’t want to participate in the rescue at first, saving a huge bunny family living under a deck, but a woman in need convinced him. So he took in 24 new, previously feral rabbits, over the span of two weeks.

Koga’s done the hard work of getting the bunnies spayed and neutered, with the help of some friendly local veterinarians. But now he faces the harder work of finding new forever homes for these reformed rabbits.

They make great pets, he says. Bunnies are very affectionate, yet independent. They’re easily litter-trained, and make a great house pet. Some thrive as indoor/outdoor pets in safe neighborhoods, free of predators.

“When I come home from work, I just open the door and they roam around,” Koga said. But rabbits aren’t always easy pets, and they’re definitely “not starter pets,” as Koga likes to say.

Koga wants his rabbits to find the right home. A forever home. So he offers a foster program. He provides a rabbit, a pen or condo, food, and supplies. The foster family can keep the bunny for six months to truly see if rabbit ownership is for them.

“You can try it out before you commit to it,” Koga said.

Until his bunnies find that forever home, Koga is committed to caring for them in his sanctuary. He works all day at a printing press, then comes home and works to take care of his rescue rabbits.

It’s not cheap. Koga’s weekly shopping list sounds like enough to open a salad restaurant.

A case of romaine lettuce. Half a case of parsley. Thirty bunches of cilantro. Thirty pounds of bananas. Bales and bales of hay.

It adds up, but Koga says the rescue rabbits deserve the same treatment as his personal rabbits. That’s why it’s called a rabbit sanctuary and not a rescue, he says.

Koga stands in his front yard, overlooking a few rabbits getting some recreation time in outdoor pens. He points from rabbit to rabbit, telling their names and their stories. He notes personality quirks, then runs inside to grab a particularly chubby bunny.

Donations from friends and Facebook followers keep Trinket’s Memorial Rabbit Sanctuary going. But more than that, it’s a sense of duty that keeps Koga rescuing rabbits.

“I accepted the responsibility for the rabbits, so I am going to take care of them,” Koga said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ADOPTIONS, VISIT trinketsrabbitsanctuary.petfinder.org or call 209-589-1750. To donate, PayPal [email protected]

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