Cats and dogs are the most common victims of animal hoarding cases. Yet, HSU has seen a significant increase in rabbit hoarding in 2022. Hoarding typically begins with just a few unsterilized animals. However, breeding can become unmanageable when kept in close quarters, not accurately sexed, and separated. For example, rabbits can start reproducing as young as 4-5 months of age, gestate for 31 days, and have anywhere between 1-12 offspring.
Over-breeding is a problem
We have seen an increase in rabbit hoarding cases, and the community is struggling to keep up. HSU has taken in 783 rabbits since 2020. The average family surrenders 4 rabbits at a time, but some are surrendering up to 20 animals. Animal hoarding is a complex issue that encompasses mental health, animal welfare, and public safety. Most people do not intend to hoard or neglect animals, but with rabbits doing what rabbits are known to do, intentional and unintentional breeding quickly leads to hoarding conditions.
When dealing with these numbers, animal hoarders cannot provide minimal standards of care, including nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care. Hoarding often leads to the over-breeding of animals, animal starvation, illness, and even death.
Some of the families HSU has worked with stated they wanted their children to experience the joys of raising baby animals, and then the breeding got out of hand. HSU encourages families to consider fostering instead. “We often have mothers and babies in all species looking for a loving home to raise their young. Fostering is incredibly rewarding as well as lifesaving for these companion animals,” according to Jolie Gordon, Foster / Volunteer Manager at the Humane Society of Utah.
Consider fostering or adopting instead
“The Humane Society of Utah discourages the public from purchasing unaltered rabbits from pet stores or fairs. Rabbits in pet stores are often separated too young from their mother, which puts them at a greater risk for health issues.” Said Juli Ulvestad, Pet Resource Center Director at HSU. “In addition, they are frequently not sexed accurately and do not come spayed, neutered, microchipped, or vaccinated like the adoptable rabbits at HSU. We have even had members of the public unknowingly purchase single pregnant rabbits from pet stores.”
The Humane Society of Utah Admissions team works with pet owners who choose to surrender some of their animals and helps them adequately care for their remaining pets. We offer assistance through spay and neutering and sharing information about community resources. HSU has 9 rabbit kennels, and rabbits currently have an average on-site length of stay of 18 days. Rabbits make great pets. However, they take considerably longer than cats and dogs to get adopted. If you are interested in adopting a rabbit, visit www.utahhumane.org/adopt.
In severe cases that require police intervention, HSU will work with law enforcement to help get justice for the animals.