With Easter approaching, animal rescue organizations in Southern California and elsewhere are once again urging people to avoid the temptation to purchase or adopt bunnies as Easter pets for children.

They say what begins as a well-meaning gesture often leads to abandoned bunnies when the novelty wears off and families realize they’re not equipped to properly care for the animals.

“Easter bunnies who magically appear and lay multi-colored eggs shown on greetings cards and cartoons are nothing but a fantasy,” says Lejla Hadzimuratovic, founder and president of Bunny World Foundation (BWF), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that’s rescued thousands of unwanted rabbits from shelters and former owners since its founding in 2008.

“The reality is that all year long bunnies, who appear more like urban chickens, are dying by the millions, slaughtered for food, fur and skin, tortured in laboratory experiments and confined to shoebox-sized cages, neglected, and exposed to harsh temperatures in commercial breeding Factories.”

Hadzimuratovic adds that despite an ordinance prohibiting the sale and purchase of live animals on the streets of Los Angeles, “the year-round live animal market in LA’s Fashion District, specifically Santee Alley, is thriving. Typically bought on a whim as a toy for a child, they often live a desolate life in the corner of a filthy cage without enrichment until they are abandoned to a shelter or die of neglect.

“Every year, we scream from the top of our lungs that bunnies don’t make good Easter gifts, and still, those reminders go unheeded.”

Bunny World Foundation typically sees a major surge in dumped bunnies in the weeks and months following Easter.

The group will be attending the L.A. Arboretum’s “Spring Fling” event today–Good Friday–to educate the public about the realities of caring for domestic rabbits. They’ll be bringing along some of their rescued bunnies who are available for adoption, for those who are serious about wanting bunnies in their lives.

To accommodate the high number of bunnies the group rescues from Los Angeles city shelters–some of whom have special medical needs that place them at greater risk, BWF offers a free foster program in which people care for the animals, help promote them on social media and bring them to weekly adoption events until they find a permanent home.

“Every year, countless rabbits suffer and die because people buy them as living toys for their children,” the Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation said in its annual Easter message last week. “Don’t be a part of the problem. Choose chocolate for Easter. And if rabbits are for you, adopt, don’t buy from a breeder or pet store. Please share this message far and wide.”

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