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In Loco Parentis for Thumper

April 29, 2001|LISA LEFF

You want to adopt, but the "agency" has questions. How many hours a day would you spend with your new bundle of love? Where would he or she sleep and play? And when is a good time for a home inspection? Leaving the interview, you avoid the little ones' huge eyes and ask yourself, "Do I have what it takes to nurture this young life, this . . . rabbit?"

Screening is all in a day's work at Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, a Santa Barbara-based rescue organization hoping yesterday's Easter gift won't become tomorrow's castoff. "The bunnies in our care get eight hours of exercise a day, fresh vegetables and love," says Andrea Bratt, a B.U.N.S. volunteer who owns six Angora rabbits, bunny-sits two others and fosters four orphans. "If we are going to make a placement, it has to be better than this." Occupancy at the nonprofit's 40-hutch shelter peaks about eight weeks after Easter, when spring litters hit puberty and once-docile balls of fluff start nipping the children or tearing up the vegetable patch. Other teenage cottontails wind up at the shelter after escaping from yards.

Bratt watches for people adopting on a child's whim and for those hunting small rabbits "for snake food." The group is also an educational resource (Bratt says the optimal rabbit menu consists of hay, leafy vegetables and pellets that contain the proper nutrients.) And, finally, there's the fall fund-raiser, complete with croquet and bowling for bunnies, a rabbit "spa" and an animal psychic.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Things You May Not Know About Bunnies

1. Rabbits do best on oat, timothy or forage hay, not alfalfa.

2. Rabbits can be litter-trained and make ideal house pets.

3. Stress or fear can fatally lower a bunny's delicate immune defenses.

4. House rabbits chew electrical cords--a hazard unless bunny-proofed.

5. A blissful bunny "purrs" by slowly grinding his teeth.

*

Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (B.U.N.S.), (805) 683-0521; www.bunssb.org.

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