This weekend, many well-intentioned parents will give live baby bunnies to their children as Easter gifts. Unfortunately, many of these rabbits will be purchased from pet stores instead of adopted from an animal shelter. Some parents will unknowingly fill Easter baskets with candy made from animals when there are other alternatives available. Then there are the eggs. Countless numbers of eggs, produced by hens that spend their entire lives living in cramped cages, will be purchased for the holiday. And pet owners may not realize there are dangers lurking in that Easter basket itself. Here are some tips for making this Easter an animal-friendly one.

Lisa Acho Remorenko

Adopt, don’t shop: If you decide that your family is ready for a bunny after thoughtful consideration, choose to adopt a homeless rabbit, rather than buying one that came from a breeder or a “bunny mill.” Check with a nearby animal shelter first. If you decide to go to a pet store, ask where the bunny originated. Many pet stores are now showcasing animals that originally came from animal shelter.

In Santa Barbara, Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (B.U.N.S.) is a wonderful organization that cares for stray and abandoned bunnies. B.U.N.S. is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.- 4:45 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. They’re located at 5473 Overpass Road in Santa Barbara. For more information, check out their website:

Purchase animal friendly Easter baskets: When you’re shopping for goodies for your Easter baskets, opt for an animal-friendly basket. Vegetarians may not be aware that the common Easter basket goodie, Peeps, contain gelatin, which is boiled animal bones. You can purchase marshmallows made entirely from non-animal ingredients from stores like Whole Foods.

Alternatively, there are many drug store candies that do not contain animal products. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calls these candies “accidentally vegan.” The companies may not necessarily set out to be cruelty-free, but thankfully they are. These candies include: Airheads, Dots, Dum-Dums, Jolly Ranchers (lollipops and hard candy), Lemonheads, Mike and Ikes, Runts, Smarties (U.S. brand), Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, Sweet Tarts, Twizzlers, and Zots.

If you fill your plastic eggs and Easter baskets with some of these candies, you’ll offer a more humane treat. As another alternative, you can choose to give stickers and bubbles and other gifts instead of candy.

Instead of coloring regular eggs, use free-range eggs:. Ninety-eight percent of egg-laying hens in the United States spend their entire lives in tiny wire cages that are no bigger than a sheet of notebook paper. They are stacked in cages in huge warehouses and most of them never see the light of day. Thanks to Proposition 2, all egg-laying hens in California must be confined in ways that allow them to lie down, stand up, fully extend their wings, and turn around freely and have access to the outdoors. For more information on buying eggs, see this past story of mine.

You can also opt for artificial eggs to color. A company called EggNots has created an artificial egg that looks and feels just like a real egg. For more information visit:

Keep your pets away from chocolate and xylitol: Most pet owners already know about the dangers of chocolate, however some may not know that the sugar substitute xylitol is toxic to pets. Since a typical Easter basket contains both chocolate and candy, be sure to keep an eye on your pet when any of the food from the basket is consumed.

Keep cats away from Easter lilies: Easter lilies are toxic cats. If you have an inquisitive cat who might chew on the flowers of an Easter lily, be safe and purchase an artificial one.

Don’t lose track of those eggs: Your dog might mistake a plastic Easter egg as a toy, and since eating a plastic egg can cause intestinal problems, it’s helpful to keep track of how many eggs you hid and where you hid them.

By thinking twice before purchasing a pet store bunny, choosing the right candy for your Easter basket, purchasing humane eggs and keeping your pets safe, you can make a difference for animals this Easter holiday. Wishing you and your family a happy, animal-friendly Easter!


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