Shelter bunny Roscoe was adopted days after this article appeared in the Alameda Sun.

Photo: Tania Fardella

Rabbit Row: Shelter's Safe Haven for Adoptable Bunnies
By Tania Fardella
Published in the Alameda Sun July 17, 2008

Imagine a place called Rabbit Row. What comes to mind? You might conjure storybook visions of a renegade rabbit reformatory, where law-breaking, lettuce-munching lagomorphs wind up after being caught pilfering tasty morsels from tempting veggie patches. But the fact is, the bunnies who find themselves on Alameda Animal Shelter's Rabbit Row are quite lucky indeed. For they are in a safe haven, lovingly cared for as they await adoption to warm, welcoming homes.

Since Rabbit Row's beginnings in 1993 when someone found a stray black-and-white baby bunny – who became known for giving "bunny kisses" and was eventually named Bonnie – outdoors in Alameda's Fernside neighborhood, over 500 rabbits have been adopted. None are ever euthanized except in cases of severe and extreme behavioral issues, or health problems beyond the shelter's medical capabilities. At any given time, in addition to the bunnies at the shelter itself, many rabbits of all ages and types are being cared for by experienced foster parents and are available for adoption as well. The shelter also works to promote education and adoption in conjunction with other shelters and rabbit rescue organizations including House Rabbit Society and Oakland Animal Services, and holds occasional adoption days at Color Me Mine at Alameda Towne Centre.

According to Volunteer Coordinator Tina Aedo, rabbits come to the shelter for a number of reasons, but she says perhaps most disturbing to her are the rabbits found wandering about outdoors. "Sometimes people make the decision that a rabbit is not the right pet for them, and tend to think that it will be fine if they simply set it free in a park. But the truth is, a rabbit stands a very slim chance of surviving outdoors due to predators." She urges anyone considering bringing a rabbit into their life to read, go online, research veterinarians, and learn as much as possible beforehand so that they can be sure their lifestyle and household will be appropriate and compatible.

When visiting Rabbit Row, potential new bunny parents are given an extensive information packet courtesy of House Rabbit Society (which got it's original start in Alameda 20 years ago), covering all aspects of proper rabbit care including everything from health, diet, suitable housing, and the importance of spay and neuter, to behavior, socialization, toys, litter box training, and rabbit-proofing. Would-be adopters are also encouraged to speak with one of the shelter's knowledgeable rabbit experts so that they can learn more about what to expect when sharing life – and a home – with a bunny.

Some alumni become ambassadors, such as Baby, Alameda Animal Shelter's official mascot. Prior to losing a brave battle with a mammary tumor in 2001, Baby visited schools, scout troops, retirement homes and even rode on the shelter's 4th of July parade float to help educate the public about caring for house rabbits. "Baby touched a lot of hearts over the years through her gentle, calming manner," recalls Rich Sievers, her guardian and a former shelter volunteer.

Community support in Alameda has been excellent, according to Aedo. "A number of residents regularly bring in fresh greens and fruit for the rabbits, as well as special apple wood which helps keep their teeth healthy," she says. "The best part of my work is seeing the happy endings – watching new adopters walk out of the shelter smiling, and knowing that the animals are going to good homes."

If you would like to help the bunnies on Rabbit Row, volunteers to assist with care and socialization at the shelter, or rabbit-experienced foster parents are always welcome. Also, donations – especially gift cards from pet stores – are greatly appreciated.

Rabbit Row/Alameda Animal Shelter is located at: 1590 Fortmann Way, Alameda
Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 11am – 4pm
Saturday: 10am – 4pm
Sunday: closed
Contact: 510.337.8565 or rabbitrow@aol.com
Website: www.rabbitrow.org

© Tania Fardella, all rights reserved.

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