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RandomWiktor

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An Introduction of Sorts...

It's five in the morning and I'm lying on my boyfriend's couch. The room should probably be silent this early in the morning, but I hear one of the African bullfrogs bellowing his mating call, the soft scrape of scales on wood as the carpet python explores his confines. Thanator,recently adopted by Steve &astrayrabbit just two weeks ago, has his small head wedged tightly beneath my chin. My nose itches and my eyes water; I've always been mildly allergic to rabbits. His heart beat is ahalcyonhum against my chest.

Thinking back to when I found the tiny rabbit, I can remember the frantic cadence of his heartbeat as I pulled him from Coco's mouth. The pudgy old Eskie looked very proud of himself. At the time, all I could think was not another animal. I'd placed over twenty animals in 2009, and already had 13 fosters waiting for homes in 2010. Placing fish and reptiles is all fine and good, but a rabbit? Suffice it to say that good homes are in short supply.

My mother, of course, wanted to keep the kit as soon as she saw his big, brown eyes and soft, wiggling nose. I was adamant against keeping him; I wanted him to get a good home where he could live with other house bunnies. When my mother pressed, I rattled off the myriad of reasons that we were not a good home... and I shocked myself.

I wouldn't adopt to me given my current rabbit care? Oh my.

Do not misunderstand; my rabbits are far from the all too common sight ofsad, neglected souls confined to a tiny wire-bottom cage, living in waste and lonliness. They have reasonably large, clean ex-pens, graze outdoors every day when weather permits, have toys, get plenty of hay and fresh foods, and more.

Yet I also see some glaring problems. Neither is spayed against my better judgement; when I was younger, we spayed a much beloved rabbit named Lucy and she died from the complications of surgery. My mom flat out refuses to allow the spaying of our rabbits as a result, something which I take great issue with but can not challenge ifI wish to live in relative peace beneath this roof.

Both rabbits also do not regularly get to run around in the house; they are either in a 4x4 expen, or a 4x6 outdoor run, neither of which provides much room to trulyrun around. Brindam is overweight, probably at least in part due to this.

Finally, both rabbits are fed a poor quality pellet, which only makes up a small percentage of the diet but is still well below my normal standards for pet food. Indeed, Steve recently made a disparaging remark about the "crap quality (brand) food people feed their poor rabbits," not realizing that this was what MY rabbits eat! Where's a badly embarassed emoticon when you need one?

In short...I can do better than this!

They say it takes a big man to admit to his mistakes. Well, sometimes it takes a small woman, instead. While I can not do anything about the reproductive status of these rabbits, I can make otherimprovements.
Thus, I have the following objectives:
1. Play time isn't just for parrots. I need to kick my own double standard in the butt and make sure the bunnies get out to play in the house.
2. She's not fluffy, she's FAT. For the sake of her own health and wellbeing, Brindam needs to lose weight.
3. Junk food recall! Time to switch to a higher quality pellet and really amp up the quality of the veggie/greens portion of the diet as well.
4. Ex-Pen enrichment. While I can't give me rabbits bigger indoor quarters for rest & poor weather, I can certainly offer more enrichment. They both have toys, but I'm sure I could be a bit more creative and come up with new daily entertainment for them.

This blog will include photos and observations on the progress of this attempt to improve things for my buns, and probably some other little stories about the other critters who live here. In the mean time...

Thank you, Thanator, for hopping into my life and opening my eyes!

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RandomWiktor

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Introducing: The Rabbits!
These are the bunnies this blog will focus on.

brinny.jpg

Brindam is a seven year old female. She was living in a barn owned by an animal hoarder; she, her mother, and her sister were in a dog crate filled with several inches of solid waste. I first saw her photographing the conditions to submit to ACOs. She and her sibling both had eye infections. When I went back a week later to get more photos, her mother and sibling were dead and she had massively infected eyes and a URI. Needless to say I couldn't leave her there.

The vet thought she'd need her eyes removed because they were so swollen, ulcerated, and infected. I spent three months flushing and medicating them several times daily, and today she has good vision in one eye. The other, due to significant corneal scarring is mostly blind.

Brindam is a cranky old girl who has never really learned to trust humans. She dislikes me passionately, probably because I performed her medical treatments for so many months. However, when she is frightened I'm also the first person she runs to.

Wendy.jpg

Wendy is a young (exact age unknown) female that we've had for about three years now. She was roaming around a neighborhood in the middle of January and was finally caught by a caring individual in a humane trap. She had milk in her teats but no babies were ever found or recovered. No owner stepped forward despite many "found" postings; I suspect she had a litter and after the cute babies were born, she was simply turned loose.

Wendy is a very energetic bun. She is quite destructive and known to nip when displeased, but she loves being petted and enjoys being fed treats.

Lucy.jpg

Lucy is my boyfriend's rabbit. She is a Flemish Giant of roughly a two years in age. He adopted her as a yearling from someone that rescued her from an overcrowded meat farm. She has a magnificent temperament and is used in our education program to teach children about exotic pets.

leonptryx.jpg

Leon (Leonopteryx) is a young (less than one year old) dutch mix boy that also belongs to my boyfriend. His fate was uncertain after his owner's child lost interest in him; the option of being food for the family's burmese python was contemplated. He's a very friendly little dude who craves attention. Once he's neutered, he'll be hopefully living with Thanator.

thanator.jpg

Thanator is a bunny I found as a stray, or more specifically a dog I was walking picked up. He was spooked nearly to death and a dismembered littermate was found nearby. I intended to place him through this forum (he's the reason I joined!) but my boyfriend very quickly decided that this one was "his" and would make a perfect friend for Leon once a little older and neutered. I like this option because I still get to visit and play with him! :)
 

RandomWiktor

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Presently, I'm sitting in my kitchen hunched on a stool with my laptop balanced precariously on my knees. It's worth it; I'm out here because I am supervising Wendy on her second day coming out in the main part of the house to interact. Right now she is nosing a ball across the floor beneath the maze of chairs surrounding the dining room table. I couldn't be more pleased.

Yesterday's attempts to get the two rabbits to actually play were decidedly lackluster. Wendy sat frozen in the corner of the room for about fifteen minutes before slowly sliding her way across the linoleum to hunker under a chair. She did scent mark the table legs, but that was about the extent of her activity.

Brindam, for her part, slowly walked back and fourth between the door and the cat's water bowl - though she did accidentally roll a ball while sniffing it.

My heart sunk at this. Were my rabbits just utterly maladapted, so used to their small world of their expens and the outdoors that they were incapable of having fun in a novel setting?

Today, I put Wendy down on the floor and she immediatelly scurried over to the table. She's been hopping over and scurrying under the decorative wooden arches of the table leg, pushing cat toys across the floor, and errupting into sudden fits of playful dashing. Thankfully she can't get much yeild on the floor or I'd worry about her crashing into something and being injured!

This is an improvement. A big improvement. And I don't just mean from yesterday, I mean in general.
 

RandomWiktor

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I hate to double post, but I'm afraid I'm past the editing limit.

Brindam, who I wasn't expecting much of on her second romp in the kitchen being an older and overweight animal, really came alive this time. She navigated the entire dining room and kitchen, something Wendy hasn't even done. She is pudgy enough that her every hop is pronounced by a loud thump, and let me tell you, her play time sounded like a drum solo she was so active! She even played ball and, surprisingly enough, ran over to me to beg for mango while I was prepping parrot enrichment.

Of course, I can't help but feel an overwhelming guilt. Only now at seven years old is Brindam experiencing the liberation of roaming a house! I realize many rabbits never see more than a tiny cage, but her ex-pen and outdoor run are little else but larger cages. Part of me wishes to dwell on this in sadness, beat myself up about it, but I understand that the only mature thought to adopt is onwards! I can't un-do the past but I can surely improve the future.

Speaking of improvements: last night I placed an order for rabbit food. We have the benefit of being able to freeze larger quantities of food, and since shipping was a flat rate, I ordered 40lbs.

My initial intention was to use Zupreme because it was significantly cheaper than Oxbow. However, the company I was ordering from had a one-week sale on Oxbow that brought its price down around the cost of Zupreme, so I figure why not order both and mix the two? I have always been a firm believer in varying nutrition, including pelletted nutrition. Once Oxbow is off sale, I may have to switch to 100% Zupreme but for now I'm excited to be able to feed both.

Finally, I created some new toys to introduce to the ex-pens throughout the week. Here's two of 'em; I also got together some wicker & cardboard items and am working on sewing someNovel Scent Stimulus pouches to add to their cages.

toy3.jpg
 

RandomWiktor

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One month ago, I'd driven to Stroudsburg to pick up a "dutch" bunny for my boyfriend. He'd been wanting one for some time, and while there were local breeders, he wanted to adopt. I thought I'd located the perfect animal when I finally saw an ad for a dutch bunny needing a good home. It turned out that he was a dutch mix, but Steve loves him all the same.

Leon was "free to a good home" on craigslist, with the same tired platitude I've seen time and time again: the child lost interest.

I've never understood parents who think a child - whose attention span can barely be retained long enough to read a picture book - will retain interest in the husbandry of a living thing for the full duration of its lifespan. Nor do I understand why parents seem to think a minor can be fully responsible for an animal. Children are not capable of caring for themselves and thus should never control the fate of another living thing.

Any parent who buys an animal "for" their child should understand that the animal belongs to no one but the adult in this equation. The child can name it, help in its husbandry, be given daily responsibilities, but at the end of the day the adult must make sure that animal is getting all that it needs - including after kiddo gets bored with it. Getting rid of an animal when a child grows disinterested to "teach the child a lesson" only teaches that animals are disposable.

But, I digress. Leon received typical care, which meant he live in a wire bottomed cage - the tips of his overgrown nails had little balls of waste clinging to them from dipping down in the feces below - and ate a poor diet. His coat was dull, loaded with dandruff, and he shed excessively. Indeed I drove home sneezing and itching, having always been mildly allergic to rabbits but moreso to those with a lot of dander.

Last night, I went down to Steve's rabbit room to visit the little bunny I'd brought home. He dashed to the front of his run filled with toys and fresh hay with a twitching nose and alert ears. I was happy to see that his coat was a sleek, shiny black. When I petted him, I could feel its softness and health. There was no dandruff, nor loose hair clinging to my palm so thickly it was turned black. And I smiled, very glad that I'd made the taxing two hour drive in order to support my boyfriend's desire to adopt.
 

hln917

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Love your stories of all the buns! I'm glad you decided to give Thanatora roomin your home. I know he'll get the love hedeserves.



RandomWiktor wrote:
I've never understood parents who think a child - whose attention span can barely be retained long enough to read a picture book - will retain interest in the husbandry of a living thing for the full duration of its lifespan. Nor do I understand why parents seem to think a minor can be fully responsible for an animal. Children are not capable of caring for themselves and thus should never control the fate of another living thing.

Any parent who buys an animal "for" their child should understand that the animal belongs to no one but the adult in this equation. The child can name it, help in its husbandry, be given daily responsibilities, but at the end of the day the adult must make sure that animal is getting all that it needs - including after kiddo gets bored with it. Getting rid of an animal when a child grows disinterested to "teach the child a lesson" only teaches that animals are disposable.

But, I digress. Leon received typical care, which meant he live in a wire bottomed cage - the tips of his overgrown nails had little balls of waste clinging to them from dipping down in the feces below - and ate a poor diet. His coat was dull, loaded with dandruff, and he shed excessively. Indeed I drove home sneezing and itching, having always been mildly allergic to rabbits but moreso to those with a lot of dander.
This sounds like Baci's previous life. In his case, he had a broken foot from the wire bottomed cage. I agree with your comments about parents buying any animal for a child. Would you purchase a human baby for a child b/c they want a brother/sister then give it away once they are bored with them?



 

fuzz16

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i have fallen in love with your blog and your writing, its extremely refreshing to read something so well put together and really get a feel for the situation.

and a VERY later welcome to the forum!
 

RandomWiktor

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Glad that people are enjoying the read :)

It occured to me while planning the weekend with my boyfriend that my life is somewhat atypical for a woman of my age. For one, I spent most of my paycheck on pet supplies... and bought sorely needed "new" clothing at Goodwill (1/2 off sale items only, to boot). The highlight of my week was coming home to three big packages on my front porch: 10lbs of T.O.P (for the parrots), 20lbs of Zupreme, and 20lbs of Oxbow. How did I spend the weekend with my boyfriend? We worked on building naturalistic enclosures for two rescued geckos & novel scent stimulus toys for our rabbits. Indeed, there was no time for cuddling on the couch until the wolf fish (a foster) had his enclosure cleaned and his medicated prey items prepped.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Some excitement in the world of rabbits: for one, I found a cloth tunnel cube while searching for things to make the kitchen more exciting. It was on clearence at WalMart and I'm very glad I spent the buck fifty on it: the rabbits love it! I've never seen Brindam come close to "darting" - I unfavorably describe her movements as "oozing" - but she did indeed flop her way through the cube in excitement! Wendy rubbed it thoroughly with her scent glands before lounging inside. I don't think I've ever seen an animal so clearly communicate "Mine!"

Today is day one of converting the rabbits to a better diet. I face any dietary changes with trepidation, mostly due to Brindam. She has always had an extremely touchy GI. Interestingly enough, one of her worst sensitivities seems to be to alfalfa, which is my primary motivation for switching pellets. Still, when I read horror stories every day about GI statis and fatal bouts of diarrhea, I can't help but feel mildly panicked.

Brindam and I don't exactly have a good relationship. Although I rescued her, I also administered her medical treatments, and those three months were nothing but stress and pain for the poor girl. She equates my presence with discomfort and fear, so her reaction to me is usually aggression. Despite this, I am very fond of her, and do not want anything bad to happen in my effort toimprove her care. So wish us luck!

Finally: keep an eye out for photos of the novel scent stimulus tubes in action! They're all done and I'm hoping to try my first scent today.
 

RandomWiktor

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Novel Scent Stimulus tube time! For those who didn't see the post in "DIY" toys, this is a simple but fun idea to provide enrichment.

We tend to provide toys that allow object manipulation play, because we as humans play in this way, or chewing toys since we know rabbits love to chew. However, their other senses are sometimes neglected; indeed enrichment in general across the species board seems to be lacking in one of the senses that many animals use most: smell!

The novel scent stimulus tube is a simple PVC pipe drilled with holes and capped on either end. Inside is a washable cloth pouch, and a bell for noise when the pipe is rolled. An object with a novel scent (scent the rabbit rarely/never encounters) is placed in the tube, allowing the rabbit the enrichment of smelling something new. It is also a noise producing object that can be rolled for manual play.

Here's what it looks like:
enrichmenttube2.jpg

tube1.jpg


So what's today's scent? I went with a bug scent: millipede! I chose dried oak leaves that had been in one of my millipede breeding bins. It smells like a millipede to the human nose, so bunnies could definitely smell it. The leaves was folded, inserted in the pouches, placed in the PVC toys and... Well, you know what? I realize this is a blog, but I think photos will explain their reaction better than words!

brinnyenrichment3.jpg

Attack! What is THIS weird new thing?

brinnyenrichment2.jpg

Oh my, what a fascinating smell!

brinnyenrichment1.jpg

Mine. I welcome you to leave now.

wendyenrichment2.jpg

Oh gee, another toy. How thrilling.

wendyenrichment3.jpg

Oh wait. This is interesting!

wendyenrichment1.jpg

Caught dragging it back into her nest.

I think we've had a success!
 

RandomWiktor

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I'm going to take a moment to talk about something serious. It's going to be painful for me to talk about, but I think there's an important lesson to be had in it.

It was 2003 and I was freshly returned from an internship at Farm Sanctuary. Energized by the experience, I was brimming with youthful naivity and a belief that I could save the world. I was eager to volunteer as much as possible, and was elated to find that a new farm animal rescue had opened locally and was seeking volunteers. I started almost immediately.

At first, the rescue seemed like a wonderful place. They had just about every sort of farm animal you could imagine - including bunnies. Superficially, they seemed well cared for. Sure, every once in a while I found a stall that was little dirtier than it ought to be, or some toenails a bit overgrown, or a couple of bites on a rabbit from a scuffle. But I figured these things were common in a new organization with a limited volunteer staff.

But then I started to notice other problems, ones that struck me as more serious. Despite the fact that the rescue's owner couldn't afford clean bedding for the horses that week, she brought in two new horses. One of the goats developed pyometria and wasn't taken to a vet. The rabbits' nails were growing long and curved and hanging through the wire, and some had been sold to pet stores.

I didn't see the writing on the wall and figured that they just needed more help. I poured myself into this rescue. When they got in a surrender of exotics, I took two lovebirds and two 5ft male iguanas into my home to take some of the pressure off of them. They claimed the iguanas were friends and had to be kept together; mere days later, when I took them to the vet on my dime, I was informed that one of the males was damaged beyond salvation from the other's abuse. Again I wrote it off, figuring they were just ignorant about exotics being a farm rescue.

Then, January, they were evicted suddenly from their property. They said they needed temporary housing, just a few weeks, for the 20+ rabbits at their facility. We would only be receiving ten, and food/hay would be provided Our family agreed to convert our garage and basement into temporary bunny housing.

We set up ten clean cages, smaller than ideal for rabbits but the best we could do for temporary circumstances. They arrived with over 20 rabbits. They assured us it was fine; the rabbits were in bonded pairs and they would arrange them accordingly so there would be no fighting. We trusted them and let them set the rabbits up in our cages. For weeks we cared for the rabbits, even when they stopped paying for food and bedding.

Then the litters started. We'd assumed, being a rescue, that their rabbits were fixed. When they said "bonded pairs," we figured they meant same sex or fixed pairs. To our horror, almost every cage had mixed, un-neutered groupings. Over eight litters were born mere weeks into receiving the rabbits.

We called in a panic, and they said that it was fine, that young rabbits placed well enough that it was a better alternative to fighting. We asked when they'd take the rabbits back, concerned with the litters trying to grow up in crowded corners. We got no answer; the rabbits stayed through February. We asked if we could rehome some; they threatened legal action if we got rid of their animals.

We started begging neighbors for dog crates, old pet cages, anything we could find to seperate out the males. We even began peicing together makeshift cages out of lawn chairs. It was too late; several does had double litters back to back.

The rescue finally agreed to take back the rabbits in late March. By then, our garage and basement were overflowing with rabbits. There was urine soaked into the walls and floors despite daily cleanings from all of the spraying and the sheer number of rabbits. We were desperate to get them out of our home, yet at the same time felt uneasy about the hands they were being returned to after this experience.

One doe, Mia, had birthed a litter and refused to nurse it; we found out from a vet that she had a broken back and couldn't assume a proper position to nurse, possible from the buck she was forced to live in close quarters with for almost a month. The rescue did not want this doe back; we kept her and the only surviving baby from the litter of three.

Mere months later, the doe suffered a uterine prolapse which revealed a cancerous uterus. Examination showed that the cancer had spread to more than just her uterus, and between this and the spinal injury, she was not a candidate for surgical correction of the prolapse nor removal of the uterus. She was euthanized.

Because they never had colostrum and were badly inbred, our best efforts in bottle rearing her litter fell flat. The two babies that died did so screaming in my hands from the pain of their GIs shutting down. The last, Darwin, survived but lived only four years due to inherent kidney defects. His skull and legs were also deformed from birth. He had a good life with us for his four short years, only because we reported to the rescue that none of the litter had survived.

A gray runt bunny, Wendel, was also kept behind; we told them he'd died, but in actuality a friend of ours fell in love with him and we agreed to adopt him to her. He is the only real happy ending of this story, still alive and well as a happy, neutered house bunny.

What became of the other rabbits? Well, in April, their website had "adorable baby bunnies for sale, just in time for easter!" We understood now that they had deliberately bred these rabbits for sale, and suckered us into picking up the tab and the husbandry efforts during this breeding effort. The "rescue" stopped being in touch with us shortly after that.

That winter, we got a newsletter from a local horse rescue about a horrific animal cruelty case involving a fraudulent rescue. The man running the rescue had warrants for several other frauds in another state. He had been keeping funds from donations and animal sales for himself while letting the animals languish; ACOs found a farm of horrors when they raided the facility. There were dead and emaciated animals everywhere. The newsletter had photos of the horses from the seizures; they looked like haunted, walking skeletons. I recognized some of them as animals I'd cared for just a year ago and couldn't believe how severe their condition had become in such a short time.

But what about the bunnies? I found out that a different farm animal rescue took the few survivors that were not equines. They wouldn't give me a strait answer about the fate of the bunnies, but flatly informed me that there were no rabbits transferred to their facility. While part of me hopes that they found homes before things got so bad, I suspect I know their true fate. :(


Why have I taken the time to relay this story? Fraudulent rescues and animal hoarding are both very serious concerns within the animal welfare community. While the man running the rescue was a fraud, the woman he ran it with was a hoarder; he exploited her desire to compulsively aquire animals to piece together all kinds of flowery rescue stories and cute animal pictures that were then used to exploit volunteers and donators into funneling money straight into his pockets.

Please, know the difference between a real rescue and an animal hoarder or fraud; it seems like it should be a no brainer, but these people can be very sneaky and insidious.

Here are some warning signs that might indicate a bad rescue:
- The rescue will not permit you to see its facilities & animals or will only selectively show you certain animals.
- Conditions are persistently unclean and excuses are constantly made such as "well tomorrow is the cleaning day" or "we're waiting on a shipment of bedding."
- Animals are unfixed and/or keep having "accidental" litters, or deliberate breeding occurs.
- Animals are denied vet care or "DIY" vet care is utilized in situations where it shouldn't be.
- The organization does not publicize its expense and donations reports and becomes defensive when asked about them.
- The rescue demonstrates ignorance about any of the species in its care
- New animals are accepted when already at or past capacity in space or funding
- Adoptions are based on fees rather than owner qualifications, rescued animals are sold to pet stores and breeders, or animals are deliberately advertised as holiday gifts.

To this day, I can't stop thinking about what the animals at those facilities must have endured. I can't stop thinking about the day we loaded all of those rabbits into carriers and sent them back, knowing that something was wrong but not knowing what else to do with them all. I can vividly remember the feeling of Mia's babies as they trembled and twitched away their last breaths in my hands.

I don't like remembering these things, but I hope my story will encourage anyone who reads this to thoroughly investigate a rescue before they opt to support it. Fraudulent rescues are a very real and sadly common problem. Please, think with your head, not just your heart, when becoming involved with a rescue. And if you do see a problem, act sooner than later - heck, act in general - unless you wish to live with many regrets.
 

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