by Becky Lembo
Increased danger for abandoned rabbits in Las Vegas
In February of 2018, rabbit rescuers caring for an abandoned rabbit colony in Las Vegas encountered their worst fears: dozens of dead rabbit bodies strewn across the lawn. Though someone indicates they spotted a car dropping off poisoned lettuce, the likely cause of these poor rabbits’ demise, officials have yet to find the people responsible. Following this tragic event, rescue groups across the U.S. have mobilized to help save as many of these rabbits as they can.
Background: Why were around 1000 domestic rabbits loose in Las Vegas?
To provide a bit of context as to how this problem got out of hand, a pair of unfixed rabbits were let loose on a youth treatment center’s property under the guise that it would help the children. This was several years ago, and since then, more rabbits have been dumped, and these rabbits have bred to the point where they numbered up to 1000. Considering an unspayed rabbit could produce over 100 babies in a year, the problem will only continue to grow exponentially. Transporting as many rabbits as possible to nonprofits throughout the United States, and a few in Canada, seemed like the best way to simultaneously decrease the problem and help the rabbits. A trap-neuter-release initiative was not an option because it would be considered abandonment and illegal in the area. The rabbits being rescued in Las Vegas are domesticated bunnies and vary in breed, age, size, and, of course, personality. Many recognized their daily caretakers: kind volunteers from one of several rescues in Las Vegas that provided food and water for them daily, and caught them as often as resources allowed.
Nationwide effort to help as many Las Vegas rabbits as possible
To save the rabbits, the House Rabbit Society spearheaded an effort to transfer them to other rabbit and animal nonprofits, and Triangle Rabbits is one of the most recent organizations to have assisted with this effort. But what does it mean when bunnies are rescued from large dumpsites and brought cross-country? How do they get across the country, and where do they go from there? Local rescue groups in Las Vegas joined forces with The Bunderground Railroad. The BGRR is an all-volunteer group that helps transport rabbits in need, and one of their areas of focus is to assist with moving animals from areas that are over capacity to rescues and shelters with available space. Once transport became an option, many more rabbits could be saved, and Triangle Rabbits knew that we wanted to be part of this rescue.
Selecting rabbits to come to the Triangle
With dozens of adorable photos of rabbits to choose from, deciding which bunnies to pick was a challenge! We chose the rabbits based on what personalities would do best at a shelter vs. if they needed some more time in foster. We also considered their gender: we’ve had recent requests for specific genders from prospective homes looking for friends for a current rabbit. To showcase the adorable bunnies being rescued from this abandoned colony, a Facebook group was created with photo albums for rescues to view the bunnies.
Knowing that they were vetted carefully, and their wounds treated before their transport, helped to ease apprehensions that rabbits wouldn’t do well during transport, a shared concern, particularly since they would be traveling for days. Las Vegas rescues carefully selected rabbits that were ready for travel and continued to foster and care for the ones who weren’t. Dumped bunnies in large colonies like these can suffer from parasites, fleas, and, quite commonly, injuries from fighting with other bunnies or from escaping from predators. Many of these rabbits were also spayed and neutered (as age/health allowed), which makes it much faster to place them up for adoption when they get to their destinations. To ensure that they stayed healthy and safe during transport, sturdy, well-sized carriers were donated by the dozens, if not hundreds, and the transport volunteers made frequent stops to check on and feed/water the rabbits and let them stretch their legs.
Weather delays and the kindness of rabbit people
With the incredible planning and organization of The Bunderground Railroad, transport volunteers spend hours, and even days, driving from rescue to rescue across the country with these very lucky bunnies. Transports are broken down by legs that are arranged by the most direct route to the rescues taking in rabbits starting from Las Vegas and ending in North Carolina for Triangle Rabbits. Unfortunately, inclement weather can affect timing, so heavy storms delayed the drivers for at least a day. Fortunately, a kind supporter donated her hotel points for the transporters and bunnies to sleep comfortably for the night; that’s just one of the many stories of compassion and kindness involved in this rescue. Transport for the Triangle Rabbits’ bunnies ended around 1 AM, so the bunnies had a fun sleepover at a few volunteer’s houses! Fosters for some of these rabbits were on standby all day to pick them up, which is another aspect of this rescue that requires much coordination and communication.
Becoming Carolina bunnies
The Las Vegas bunnies adjusted to their new lives very quickly! They are safe, have spacious cages with toys and a box for hiding, and plenty of food, hay, water, and veggies. Four of these rabbits went to the SPCA of Wake County directly, and some (sweet Joey and Tyson) have already been adopted! Autumn, a Triangle Rabbits’ bunny currently in foster care has already won the hearts of her foster family and has many admirers on Facebook with her loving personality and happy-go-lucky attitude (not to mention her gorgeous caramel fur!). When you see these sweet bunnies go from having been abandoned in Las Vegas to a cozy, cool home or shelter, it makes it all worth it! More transports are planned for the remaining bunnies that were rescued from this property, and volunteers plan on working day and night until all bunnies are safely caught and in their care. Rescues like these take a village – or a national rescue effort – and Triangle Rabbits was proud to be a part of it. Thanks to your support, happy endings like these are possible!
Photographs of rabbits who had traveled from Las Vegas, in the order in which they appear:
"Autumn." Adoptable from Triangle Rabbits.
"Chip." Adoptable from Triangle Rabbits.
"Brett." Adoptable from the SPCA of Wake County.
"Ditto." Adoptable from the SPCA of Wake County.