Purdue vet: Keep rabbits, chicks, children safe during Easter

March 18, 2013  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Purdue University veterinarian says parents should resist the urge to give live rabbits and chicks as Easter gifts.

Lorraine Corriveau, a pet wellness veterinarian, says the live chicks and rabbits available in many pet stores this time of year require more maintenance and care than most people realize.

"Often many folks think rabbits need only a small cage and don't need much attention," Corriveau says. "The truth is they have dietary requirements that include a balanced diet of pellets, fresh lettuce and other vegetables, and grass hays. They also require daily exercise and enough space to perform three consecutive hops in a cage. When you get a rabbit, it's potentially a 10-year commitment because the average life expectancy of most rabbits is 10 years."

Young children tend to be rougher and not understand that they can easily injure a rabbit's back. In addition, rabbits have long toenails that leave deep scratches if handled improperly.

Chicks can carry salmonella and E. coli, which can cause diarrhea and possibly even death to young children. Chicks also can be dangerous when they get older.

"Chicks grow into chickens," she says. "Roosters can potentially become aggressive when they hit sexual maturity. Roosters also tend to make a lot of noise in the wee hours of the morning before the sun comes up."

After Easter many shelters are overwhelmed by the number of rabbits admitted and have to euthanize several. Rabbits are the third-most relinquished pets to animal shelters, which are usually equipped to handle only a few rabbits and rodents at a time.

Rabbits also are often released to the wild to fend for themselves, and those that don't starve become easy prey for predators, she says.

"Those cute, long-eared, baby bunnies with their twitching noses and the soft, yellow, adorable chicks are not toys, and they grow up to become rabbits and chickens that carry big responsibilities," Corriveau says.

Writer: Greg McClure, 765-496-9711, gmcclure@purdue.edu

Source: Lorraine Corriveau, 765-494-7789, corrivea@purdue.edu

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