ullivan likes to dig and Hop likes to play.
Bella is shy, but Olivia isn’t. Bunzilla is the big bunny boss.
Each of the six rabbits up for adoption at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay is finding his or her place in the bunny hierarchy, now that they are all free to roam around the shelter’s new “Rabbit Resort.”
“We’re hoping when people adopt them, they will see how wonderful they are,” said executive director Sherry Silk.
The bunnies used to be kept inside in individual cages, Silk said. But one day in February she decided to make a change. A couple thousand dollars and several volunteer hours later, they had a new outdoor rabbit enclosure where potential pet parents can watch them scamper around a patch of grass and interact with other bunnies.
“They can really stretch and play,” Silk said. “We just wanted to do better for them.”
The “resort” comes complete with a litter box, an herb garden, a waterfall and food bowls shaped like carrots. The bunnies spend their days lounging in the shade under the three wooden dens or chasing each other through tunnels and around toys.
The area where the Rabbit Resort was built was formerly where pet owners took photos with their new cats and dogs.
“It was cute, but not this cute,” Silk said about the area now.
The Armenia Avenue shelter found new homes for about 50 rabbits last year, Silk said. The rabbits currently up for adoption were surrendered either because their previous owners were allergic to them or didn’t have time to take care of them. In 9-week-old Olivia’s case, she just wasn’t what her previous owner “expected her to be,” shelter volunteers said.
This time of year — the weeks surrounding the Easter holiday — is when shelters see the largest influx of rabbits, Silk said.
Shelters refer to it as the “Easter dump.” People buy baby rabbits from the pet store for their kids, and then surrender them to the shelter when they grow or become too much of a responsibility.
“That’s why we want people to come here, not the pet store,” said Pam Backer, director of shelter operations.
People who buy rabbits at the pet store often don’t get them spayed or neutered, and then find themselves with a bunch of baby rabbits to deal with, she said. At the shelter, they are spayed or neutered and microchipped before they are adopted.
The new Rabbit Resort can accommodate from eight to 10 bunnies, Silk said, and unlike some other shelters, the Humane Society does not euthanize animals. So there’s room for more rabbits, but shelter workers don’t want to overcrowd them.
Just a few weeks after its completion, the Rabbit Resort already is helping the shelter find new homes for the rabbits, shelter volunteers said. People get to pet them and see them playing with each other.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize what really good pets they can be,” Backer said. “They’re very social animals.”