One of the activities I do - and have done since November - is volunteer weekly at a local animal shelter, specifically a rabbit shelter. It is not nearly as noble as it may sound: I clean litter boxes and trays, move hay, throw trash, and any other sort of things that need doing. It only works out to a couple of hours a week and they are always extraordinarily grateful for the help.
In speaking with shelter manager yesterday they mentioned that they had eight bunnies come in over the course of the week, with an additional two yesterday. One of the ones that came in this week was pregnant so count on a few more. We had 3-4 come in the following week. Some of them do get adopted out, but not so many as seem to be coming in.
Most of the rabbits that come in are listed as "strays" - that is, people "found" them during the course of their day. It happens - in fact one of our rabbits was a legitimate stray I found wandering around - but I suspect not all the rabbits that come to us are that. I suspect a great deal of them are simply pets that, for one reason or another, have no longer come viable.
We could have a discussion about adopted an animal and then abandoning it because it is no longer convenient (warning: it will be a short discussion mostly discussing your inability to understand the word "responsibility") but the point I would like to consider is a bit a larger and more alarming.
For those that have never kept a rabbit, they are actually pretty pleasant pets. They are not loud. Their poop is non-smelly pellets that can be immediately dumped onto your garden. They can be litter box trained. They eat have and pellets and vegetable and fruit snacks. Most of them are low shedding animals. They react to happiness by grinding their teeth (purring in cats) and give rabbit kisses like dogs and cats do to show affection. And other than a nail trim and combing, they are low maintenance.
So why are we seeing more abandoned?
I wonder if (in my heart of hearts) if this is just another sign of how stressed the system is becoming.
Rabbits, like most pets, are a luxury. They require a certain amount of money and time to care for (although not much). When things get tight or people get stressed, pets are one of the first things to go.
It saddens me sometimes when I walk in the Shelter and see the bunnies (there are probably over 100 there now) all with a back story. They all came from somewhere. For most of them, they were probably loved by someone. And then, for one reason or another, it became expedient for them to leave.
I will do the little bit I can, cleaning and giving the occasional pets to those who want them and putting one very small finger in a very large hole in the dam. But it concerns me more than a little that we already find ourselves in this place - and like an ecosystem, disturbances in the lower parts of the chain have ominous implications for the structure as a whole.