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“I’d like to think that, but it’s not the truth,” Sauln says. “They just don’t want it anymore.”

She is quick to differentiate between 4H kids and Future Farmers. “For the most part, the kids who let animals loose are not 4H-ers.” Sauln says that rabbits are the most numerous of the 4H small-animal projects, “because kids can have a rabbit in an apartment.” Some kids have breeding projects while others have meat projects.

Sauln would willingly be part of a solution if only she were informed that the student could no longer care for the animal. “If they’d call me,” she says, “I’d help them find [the rabbit] a home.”


“We found Moe in a plastic Target shopping bag in a parking lot.”

Patricia Mulcahy is president of the San Diego chapter of the House Rabbit Society. Mulcahy once lived on St. Thomas and worked as a sailboat captain. She moved to La Mesa in 2000 and now works as a legal secretary. She’s alert, 50-something, with a plume of frizzy hair.

Patricia Mulcahy, president of the San Diego chapter of the House Rabbit Society

The first thing a visitor encounters upon entering her home — aside from the computerized loom — is a series of wire pet barriers strategically placed to restrict her pet rabbits to certain areas and to keep them from encountering each other. Rabbits chew; rabbits fight.

The first such pet to greet a visitor is named Katie. She’s a large, reddish female of the “silk” breed. Katie is friendly and curious, with big feet and big ears. Two other rabbits, Antonio Bun-deras and Big Buns, live up a small flight of stairs, in a sitting room off the kitchen. They, and Katie, come hopping when Mulcahy raps loudly on the hardwood floor: her signal for a treat. She feeds each a special grain cookie made for rabbits.

An entire back bedroom has been given over to stacks of wire cages. This is where Mulcahy pens her foster-care rabbits. At present, all fosters — 14 of them — are outside on the covered patio, lounging in large exercise pens. They represent a fraction of House Rabbit Society bunnies awaiting adoption.

I meet Walter and Gracie first, then a small three-legged bunny named Shaggy.

“They come in sometimes with a broken leg because the owners don’t want to pay the money to take them to a vet,” Mulcahy says. “In most cases, due to a rabbit’s high level of activity, a broken leg must be amputated, because if they don’t get a chance to set correctly, infection can ensue.”

Clover, a gray-and-white Dutch male is also a “tripod,” similarly abandoned with a broken hind leg. Mulcahy lets him out of his exercise pen. He hops about the back yard at considerable speed, considering his disability, and investigates everything. “We don’t have any problem adopting out tripods,” Mulcahy says. Does she feel a twinge of sadness when they go? Not at all. “I don’t cry. I’m happy. I can’t give them all the individual love and attention they deserve.”

When Katie hops by for a visit, Mulcahy gently picks her up and plops her in my lap. She then explains how the Society’s hotline works. “We get what we call ‘dump calls’ — people trying to get rid of their pets — five to six times a week.” To solve the problem, they try to find out why a caller needs to loose the pet rabbit; in many cases, the best-case scenario is to keep it in its home.

Earlier, when I spoke with Shelly, who also volunteers as a society hotline worker, she told me, “People threaten us. They say, ‘If the shelters are full and you can’t take our rabbits, we’ll set them free.’” Shelly talks about trying to corral six black bunnies released at a Jamul stable and about following up on bunny reports on Cowles Mountain in San Carlos, another popular dumping ground.

“Domesticated rabbits can’t live in the wild,” Shelly says. “For one, there are coyotes, hawks, foxes, and raccoons. Domestic rabbits don’t know how to forage for food in the wild. I don’t think they know how to get water.” Most people are shocked to learn this. “They see wild bunnies, and they think pet bunnies will adapt. We tell them that, instead of turning them loose, [they should] advertise on Craigslist or put up flyers at their veterinarian’s office or in pet shops. We tell them to call the shelters every day to see if there are openings.”

For the record, it’s illegal to turn a pet loose anywhere within San Diego County. It’s considered Willful Abandonment, a misdemeanor offense, according to California Penal Code 597s.

How long do rabbits generally remain in a foster home such as Mulcahy’s? Walter and Gracie, Mulcahy says, have been with her for about a year. Another rabbit remained in foster for five years, or potentially half its expected lifetime. She explains that the society holds two adoption events per month. Adoption chairman Judith Pierce prequalifies prospective bunny adopters. “If they insist on keeping a rabbit outside, we won’t adopt. A rabbit is such a different animal.”

Mulcahy points out the rabbit named Moe in the lot on her patio. He’s the one that survived being abandoned in a plastic bag. Moe is two shades of brown. “He’s been sun-bleached,” Mulcahy explains, a normal condition. “At least the people that dumped him did the right thing. They left him in the parking lot in front of the Pet Emergency Hospital, and they called us.”



Author Dave Good and his rabbit

Something in my attitude is changing. It’s been a gradual turn, not anything I can time-stamp, simply a growing awareness that the found rabbit with “Stoopid” inked into its ear has indeed found a home — mine.

My friends are not amused. “You’re the only single man we know with a bunny.” I hear that a lot, and indeed, the people I meet at the House Rabbit Society, and bunny-owners elsewhere, tend to be women and children. An ex-girlfriend says, “You’re the last person I’d think of that would own a rabbit.”

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Comments

Lisa_Burrell March 20, 2013 @ 11:35 a.m.

I enjoyed your interesting and thorough article, and what a sweet story about you and your new pet! I can tell how comfortable you two are together, in the video. (Is she still called "Stoopid"? LOL). I grew up with a couple different bunnies in the 70s and 80s back when they did live in hutches outside and eat carrots :)... I'd have a house bunny now in a second, but I don't think my Jack Russell would take very kindly to it. (and the description of your and friends' disbelief that YOU would have a rabbit is the same feeling/reaction I went through when I agreed to a dog four years ago... but now he's the baby we never had or wanted, and brings me so much joy. I hope you enjoy your bunny roommate/pal as much! :)

~ Lisa in Orange County

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Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:35 a.m.

Hi Lisa; no, she's not called Stoopid any more, and never was called that here at the house. We call her The Mouse, in deference possibly to her size: tiny. I think it's probably a wise choice not to mix a bunny with a Jack Russell!

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Margobun March 20, 2013 @ 1:57 p.m.

Thanks for the great article, Dave, for the many shout outs to House Rabbit Society, but especially for rescuing your new friend!

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Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:37 a.m.

True that, Margobun. I initially went to the HSR as a "dump call." In time, they made it possible for me to understand and keep the rabbit. The experience has changed my life for the better.

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KatieS March 20, 2013 @ 6:23 p.m.

Dave, I REALLY enjoyed your article!! It was a great read! The best part for me was that you ended up keeping that sweet bunny you found. I am dying to find out what you call her now. I loved the video of you 2!! Thank you so much for calling attention not only to what great pets buns are but also to the plight that so many of them face because people don't think before getting a rabbit. Rabbits are such underrated pets. They are loving, sweet, smart and spunky!! I love my dogs, cats and horses but there will always be a very special place in my heart for my rescue bunny Fidget!

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Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:38 a.m.

The Mouse: that's her new name. It kind of fits, being that she is all of two pounds.

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vaultingmama March 21, 2013 @ 2:23 a.m.

Enjoyed this article and will share on my FB page. (bunnygroomer.com) I have been rescuing for about 7 years and have about 47 bunnies right now...yikes, I know! But I find good homes for them eventually. Some I've had for 3-5 years. Others go quicker. None go fast. I do what I can..helping my local shelter and taking in the unwanted and death rowers. I rack my brain for ideas to help the situation...and have some good ideas....but no funding. Im still in debt from doing all the spay and neutering! lol But boy do I love the bunnnnnnies. I got bunny fever 7 years ago. My story is on my website up to chapter 12. I am living in chapter 300 at this point! NO time to write at this point. Blessings, vicki bunnygroomer@gmail.com www.bunnygroomer.com

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Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:40 a.m.

Wow - 47 bunnies? Thanks for helping the cause!

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sddialedin March 21, 2013 @ 3:22 a.m.

I moved into my current place about a year ago. With it came a presumably dumped bunny. He lives between my open backyard (shared with other tenants) and a few other houses on my block. With a dog and cat already in my studio, bringing him indoors is not an option but we do our best to feed him and keep him from being harassed. He let me pet him for the first time last week and it kills me a little when he disappears for a day or two, but capturing him and turning him over to a shelter doesn't feel right either. Not sure what the right thing to do is except letting him live life as he currently knows it.

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Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:43 a.m.

My first thought is that the bunny should be brought in to a shelter, or at least given to someone who can house it properly...for the animal's own good, really. Lots of different ways for it to get sick or be hurt while on the loose. Let me know how I can help, okay?

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thebunnyguy March 21, 2013 @ 9:29 a.m.

Thank you Dave, for this amazing article. It is a very timely reminder that rabbits are a commitment that requires special knowledge and is not an Easter gift that can be disposed of when the holiday passes. Thank you Petco Foundation for supporting our efforts to get a rabbit only shelter in San Diego and for not selling bunnies in their SoCal stores. Most of all, I want to invite the public to join us for our third annual "Make Mine Chocolate" meeting at Buccaneer Beach in Oceanside CA this Sunday at 3pm. We will be collecting donated chocolate bunnies to give to a local Abused Women's Shelter for their children. Last year we donated 34 big chocolate bunnies in the name of the San Diego House Rabbit Society. We hope to donate even more this year. If you are in the area, drop by and donate a chocolate bunny for an abused family and check out all of our pet house rabbits who will be in attendance. It is not necessary to bring a rabbit, but if you do please bring an x-pen, litter box and bowl of water for him. For more info, http://northcountybeachbunnies.shutterfly.com/

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Dave Good March 22, 2013 @ 9:05 a.m.

It's just like Patricia Mulcahy said: "small animal, big pet." To be perfectly honest, I think most people aren't intentionally abusive. I think they are doing what they think is a good job of caring for their respective pet rabbits based on the popular knowledge that is available at pet retailers and rabbit breeders and so on.

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AmandaJess March 21, 2013 @ 4:23 p.m.

I knew it was a cult! I'm a proud member then! Great article.

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meliciousbeauty March 21, 2013 @ 7:22 p.m.

I absolutely adored this article Dave! what a fantastic way to bring awareness to a topic that does not receive enough education! I am so glad that you kept this Rabbit as your own and that you took it upon yourself to do what you knew what right! Thank you for recognizing House Rabbit Society as well because they never get the full amount of credit they deserve for everything that they do! What a wonderful thing to discuss right before Easter! Thank You Again!! I felt like i went on a journey with you! As a proud owner of 2 rabbits I would not know what I would do without them...They saved me, not the other way around...I loved this article! Thanks again! From Michigan With Love, Melissa

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Dave Good March 22, 2013 @ 9 a.m.

Thanks for reading. The real credit goes to the Reader and my editor -- they recognized the story and made the decision to give it support. Yeah, the HRS team is tireless in their support, aren't they? I'd like to know more about how your rabbits saved you --

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judyperry March 25, 2013 @ 6:49 a.m.

LOVE this article Dave! I work with a small animal rescue in Newfoundland, Canada. We have about 30 rabbits in our foster care program right now. They are amazing pets, just misunderstood. I have 4 (2 bonded pairs) of my own:) I especially loved the part where you said but "they'll chew up your stuff" and her response was "Yeah, if you place importance on your stuff." That's a lesson that a lot of people can learn for sure! Thanks so much for sharing! I will share your article with our rescue family:)

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Desertdarlene March 29, 2013 @ 7:55 p.m.

Thank you so much for rescuing this rabbit! I often look after the dumped ducks at the lake and try to get them homes if I can. It's very hard, not only to catch them, but to place them. If I could take them home, I would.

I understand that some people are desperate and don't feel they have any alternatives to where they can take their pets when they move, etc. (there's no real waterfowl rescue center in this area). But, I can't believe how many people think that dumping their pet is the RIGHT thing to do. They wouldn't dump their dog at the lake, but they feel it's perfectly natural to dump a pet bunny or non-flying breed of duck there.

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maria52 March 31, 2013 @ 9:14 p.m.

Hey Dave. Just wanted to comment on your heartwarming and well-written article. . .Admittedly, I was a little reluctant to read it due to the cover picture. . .I thought it might be about those type of people that dress up as stuffed animals. "Furries" is what I think they are called. . .Anyhow, finally just out of curiosity, decided to read your piece and was duly impressed, as well as being touched by your poignant story. I had to be reminded once again: "do not judge a book by it's cover." Really beautiful story, told very well. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks!

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