A handful of animal lovers in HRM and Hants County are struggling to cope with an increasing number of abandoned domestic rabbits, some of which are regularly reported in the Bridgewater area.
According to Lisa Conrod, one of the volunteers with the 10,000 Carrots Rabbit Rescue organization, last summer the Hants-based group had a spate of reported sightings in Bridgewater.
"We do still have people calling from time to time," she says.
More than 300 rabbits throughout the province have been rescued since Tammy MacDonald, a registered veterinarian technician, started 10,000 Carrots seven years ago.
When LighthouseNOW spoke with Conrod recently, 28 rabbits were being fostered in the homes of six volunteers.
"We don't have a shelter, unfortunately, because we're not that rich of an organization. We're not funded by any government agency of any kind. We run solely on donations and out of pocket," she noted
Success in catching an abandoned rabbit, "depends on the bunny," says Conrod.
"Sometimes the rabbit is very socialized and kind of curious and hungry, so it's an easier task. Sometimes they're afraid ... and it takes a long time. " Securing the animals can take anywhere from a couple of hours to weeks.
The rescue and maintenance costs can add up, says Conrod, who has had pet rabbits for the past 25 years.
For each rescued rabbit, 10,000 Carrots ensures the animal is checked by a vet and spayed or neutered.
The overall care of each rabbit is close to $500 to $600.
And that's just the average. "We've had some rabbits come in, in a pretty bad shape," notes Conrad.
The organization has had to put a halt on taking in any new rabbits until some of the ones they have are adopted out.
"We obviously do this because we love these animals and we want to help every one of them. It's just getting overwhelming," Conrod lamented.
What the organization can't cover through donations and volunteer contributions, it tries to raise through various fundraising activities. It plans a Bingo for Bunnies in October and an auction in November.
As well as money, the group could use some better understanding from rabbit owners. The problem of abandoned rabbits stems from misconceptions, lack of awareness and "spur-of-the-moment pet purchasing," suggests Conrod.
Many Nova Scotians look at rabbits they see in the woods, most likely Arctic hares, and think their pets can survive outside on their own too.
"And they simply cannot...Our climate is not suitable for them. Most of their babies would freeze to death," she insists.
Leaving a pet rabbit in the wild "is on par with abandoning your Chihuahua in the woods and thinking it could survive as a wolf would," says Conrod.
Moreover, many people don't realize what they're getting into when they make that spur-of-the-moment decision to buy their child a cute rabbit for Easter or as a family pet.
"They almost see a rabbit like a pocket pet like a hamster. They don't realize that it's a pet on par with a cat or dog in terms of care and socialization and that sort of thing.
"They need exercise. They should not be kept in a little cage and looked at."
Conrod points out the animals also need a bit more specialized medical care, and owners need to seek out a vet that knows a lot about them.
She accuses many rabbit owners of not having done their homework in advance to find out about the care of the animals.
"And when they realize that it's not what they expected, or their child is not taking care of them, they don't know what to do with them and they get abandoned."
Conrod says, in an ideal world, she would like to see people educated about domestic rabbits, "and us to have funding to do what we need to do."