Last week marked the start of the Chinese New Year with 2011 celebrating the Year of the Rabbit. Like the houses of the zodiac in Western astrology, the animals of Chinese astrology are thought by many to impact world events in any year they rule. Many Asians believe the Year of the Rabbit will bring good luck for those born under that zodiac sign. Many animal welfare groups, however, believe rabbits will be exploited and subsequently dumped in the coming year.
Ashley Fruno, Asia representative for the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) states, “People think rabbits are small and cute, but they are a lot of work. They just can’t be stuffed into a cage.” Fruno says “rabbits often live up to 12 years, need space to roam, have fragile physiques and are prone to diseases like cancer, which means hefty veterinarian bills.”
Some animal rescue groups worry that consumers will purchase rabbits on impulse, simply following the trend. This type of craze has happened in the past after movies such as Finding Nemo and 101 Dalmatians, where moviegoers saw cute animal actors on the big screen and wanted the real thing for themselves. In the case of 101 Dalmatians, many parents purchased the breed impulsively, without being aware of the high-energy dog’s needs. This resulted in animal shelters and rescue organizations being inundated with Dalmatians once the dogs became too hard for the owners to handle. Some rescue groups fear the same will happen with the Year of the Rabbit.
Many rescue groups are focusing on the positive side of the Year of the Rabbit, hoping to capitalize on adoptions. Here in Santa Barbara, Jean from the rescue group B.U.N.S.(Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter) told me, “Good fortune comes to those who adopt one or more rescue rabbits as pets for life during the year of the rabbit.” Jean even suggested a rabbit named Gracie Ann. “She is the perfect Chinese bunny, white with red eyes for good fortune. Gracie Ann loves to snuggle and would happily spend her life in the arms of a loving person. She is under a year old and fairly small. Gracie Ann is spayed and litter box trained.” For more information on B.U.N.S., visit, bunssb.org
Many other animal activists are hoping the Year of the Rabbit will turn the spotlight on the plight of rabbits. PETA has launched an ad campaign imploring Chinese movie star Gong Li to curb her penchant for wearing rabbit and other furs and switch to a “kinder wardrobe.” The ad shows a woman’s foot stepping on the neck of a dead rabbit next to the words, “Where Does Gong Li Stand on Fur?” PETA is also pushing to lead the fight to save rabbits and other animals through their eye-opening campaigns against retailers and designers (a big one being Donna Karan) who still use animal skins. Though millions of animals are killed each year for the clothing industry, PETA points out that more than half of the fur used in the United States comes from Chinese fur farms, where animals spend nearly their entire lives crammed in filthy wire cages and then are killed by such methods as neck-breaking, suffocation, poisoning, and electrocution—that keep the rabbits’ skin intact so that it can be sold.
A much more gloomy take on the Year of the Rabbit came from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which tracks the health of species worldwide. IUCN is using the occasion to stress that, nearly one in four rabbits, hares, and pikas are threatened with extinction, mostly due to overhunting, habitat loss, invasive feral animals and viral diseases. According to the IUCN, their decline often has also been catastrophic to their predators like eagles and lynxes.
I was told by a woman who works in the rabbit rescue business that the main goal of the New Year is to clean the house, discard things you don’t use, and purge the place of bad spirits—hoping for a clean slate to start the coming year. So, follow that true spirit of the Chinese Year of the Rabbit and if you feel the urge to adopt a rabbit, be certain you are ready to adopt for life and please visit your area animal shelter or petfinder.com.
From February 1-14, County Animal Services will be offering a 50-percent discount on cats who have been at Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) for more than six months.
Included in the adoption fee:
* Spay or neuter surgery
* Flea treatment
* Health evaluation, including testing for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). Cats thought to be 10 years or older receive a full blood panel evaluation, thus assuring that the cat is indeed healthy and adoptable.
* Medical and drug coverage through ASAP’s vet for 2 weeks beyond adoption, if necessary
* Temperament evaluation
* Cat Carrier (you can save the County money by bringing your own)
ASAP is located at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road. Adoption hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, visit asapcats.org
Here’s a look at some of the kitties looking for homes at ASAP:
· Looking for an animal-friendly Valentine’s Day gift? Shop for flowers and 20 percent of your purchase goes to the ASPCA: http://www.teleflora.com/aspca
Adoptable Pet of the Week