This Sunday, many well-intentioned parents will purchase live baby bunnies for their children as Easter gifts. Unfortunately, many of these rabbits will wind up at shelters once they grow big and the novelty wears off. Because of this fact, there are animal shelters across the nation that refuse to adopt out rabbits at Easter time. However, this is not the case with Santa Barbara Shelter Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (BUNS). They encourage adoptions year-round, even at Easter time, as long as those adoptions are to responsible owners.

BUNS was founded in 1992 when a woman named Dorothy Diehl came to Santa Barbara looking to adopt an Angora rabbit. Instead, Diehl found adoptable rabbits at a shelter in conditions that weren’t up to par. She ended up volunteering to improve those conditions and recruited seven volunteers, one for each day of the week. There are now close to 30 volunteers that run the organization. BUNS also gets assistance from Girl Scout troops and the mothers and daughters of the National Charities League.

BUNS has a major fundraiser each year in September, called the Bunny Festival, that helps support their cause. The Bunny Festival includes a silent auction, a bake sale, children’s activities, vendors, rabbit Olympics, an animal communicator, veterinarians, and rabbit photos. Here is some great video from the festival last year:

It should be noted that rabbits aren’t for everyone. They’re not a “starter pet” for children as most people think. A child will not be able to be the sole caretaker of the bunny; adult supervision and assistance is required. Your house will require bunny-proofing and some rabbits will need to be litter box trained if they aren’t already. Rabbits are susceptible to hairballs and they can’t cough it up (as cats do) so they have to be brushed frequently. Every day, bunnies require monitoring and room to run and jump. And a bunny needs more than just rabbit pellets to survive; fresh vegetables, grass and hay are also needed on a daily basis. Make sure you are ready for a lifetime commitment when you adopt a rabbit as some rabbits can live past 10 years.

BUNS offers nail trimming for rabbits and guinea pig nails for just $5. The group also teaches the basics of operant conditioning in a hands-on workshop using shelter rabbits and guinea pigs. You can teach your rabbit or guinea pig to touch a target, learn to shape a turn, and sit up. For more information on rabbit or guinea pig training, call 683-0521.

If you love rabbits, but can’t give one a permanent home, BUNS is always in need of volunteers at the shelter and there are a lot of different ways you can make a difference. You can volunteer at the shelter taking care of the stray and abandoned bunnies that are waiting for a home. BUNS also needs volunteers to help shuttle bunnies to and from the vet for spay and neuter. You can also volunteer to become a foster parent and temporarily care for a rabbit in your home. BUNS asks that persons under the age of 18 come accompanied by a responsible adult. For more information, contact Andrea Bratt Frick at 684-2269 

If you think you’re ready to share your life with a bunny, before you shop, please adopt! Pet stores often get their bunnies from “bunny mills” where rabbits are continuously bred and babies are weaned at a very early age. With all the homeless rabbits waiting for permanent homes, it doesn’t make sense to breed them. Kudos to Petco for discontinuing their sale of rabbits. Petco now only showcases shelter rabbits.

BUNS is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. It’s located at 5473 Overpass Road, Santa Barbara. For more information, check out the Web site at BUNS currently has over 60 rabbits and seven guinea pigs at its Santa Barbara shelter.

If you think a bunny is right for your family, hop on down to BUNS today!

Animal-Friendly Easter Baskets

This Easter, opt for an animal-friendly basket. You can purchase marshmallows made entirely from nonanimal ingredients from stores like Whole Foods. Vegetarians may not be aware that Peeps contain gelatin, which is boiled animal bones. For a completely animal-free Easter basket, check out

Also, instead of regular eggs, use free range when you color your eggs. Ninety-eight percent of egg-laying hens in the United States spend their entire lives in tiny wire cages with no more area than a sheet of notebook paper. They are stacked in cages in huge warehouses and most never see the light of day. Thanks to Proposition 2, the law will require that by 2015 all egg-laying hens must be confined in ways that allow them to lie down, stand up, fully extend their wings and turn around freely. Now that will be something to celebrate!

Wishing you and your family a happy, animal-friendly Easter!


Adoptable Pet of the Week

Alice is a calm, pleasant rabbit. She is patient with children. She loves to be pet and will sit in your lap. Alice will be someone’s best friend. Poor Alice has been at the shelter for over a year!

Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (BUNS) is a volunteer organization that cares for abandoned rabbits. BUNS is located at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road. BUNS works to find bunnies permanent homes, and educates the public on caring for a companion rabbit. You can call the County Shelter at 681-5285 or call BUNS at 683-0521 and leave a message for someone to call you back. For more information, visit


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