On the surface, Easter is a time of lighthearted celebration, involving painted eggs and sugary sweets. But Easter has a more sinister side, as thousands of bunnies, chicks, and ducklings are bought as presents and then promptly abandoned when owners realize they’re not up to the task of caring for them. Most of these animals never live to see their first birthday.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), every year shelters are flooded with unwanted Easter pets that are often euthanized due to lack of available homes. This is especially prevalent when such gifts are bought for children who are unequipped to care for them, which places the animals at risk for abuse and neglect.
Easter pets are bought by people who see them as mere commodities, rather than a long-term commitment. Once the holiday is over, these people realize too late that the decision to get a new pet is not to be made lightly.
Rabbits, for example, have a lifespan of nine to twelve years, and they require a spacious cage, food and water containers, litter training, and a varied diet consisting of pellets, hay, and vegetables. They are social creatures and require play and exercise, as well as regular cleaning, brushing, and nail clipping.
Before introducing a rabbit into one’s home, the home must be “bunny-proofed;” meaning there must be no house plants that are toxic to them, and electrical cords and wires must have cord protectors to keep rabbits from chewing on them. Owners must also be able to afford them, as they need regular veterinary care, and it can cost $100 just to get them spayed or neutered.
Rabbits are usually not recommended for small children, as they are shy, frightened by loud noises, and require quiet time. Many adult rabbits don’t enjoy being held or handled, so they may get fidgety and kick or scratch. If a person is unable to provide the right environment for a pet rabbit, they are better off getting a chocolate one for Easter instead.
Certain states require licenses to keep chickens, and their average lifespan is eight to ten years. Like rabbits, they are costly, requiring housing, food, and occasional vet care. Ducks can live up to twenty years, require access to a water source, and often get depressed if not given enough attention.
Many families release these pets into the wild rather than taking them to a shelter, mistakenly believing they’ll know how to survive. Domestic species are unable to fend for themselves, and they die of starvation or exposure to the elements if a predator doesn’t get to them first. A domestic rabbit released into the forest will not last long, nor will a duck left in a pond; not when they’ve been bred to be dependent on humans for survival.
Ultimately, buying a live animal as a holiday gift teaches children to view them as toys or trinkets, rather than living beings. A better idea is taking them to an animal sanctuary or a petting zoo, where they can play with any Easter creatures that may be there. This could provide opportunity to learn how to interact with animals and respect their needs and boundaries, and that would make for a happier Easter for everyone involved.
– Särah Nour