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April 15, 2014 > Ohlone Humane Society Column: Easter thoughtsÉ

Ohlone Humane Society Column: Easter thoughtsÉ

By Nancy Lyon

Easter is just around the corner and to some it brings thoughts of either getting or giving live bunnies, baby chicks and ducklings as gifts to celebrate the occasion. However, you need to think long and hard about what that actually involves and ask yourself if you really have the time and means to provide for their requirements in what should be a long term commitment to their care.

Rabbits can be delightful companions that can live from seven to ten years or more; that cute baby bunny youÕre considering for your child on Easter may still be around long after your child has become a teenager or left home leaving you as the daily caregiver and guardian.

It takes time and knowledge to care for rabbits properly as they are not low-maintenance ÒpetsÓ and require specific dietary and veterinary needs and must be handled with care. This makes them a poor match for young children who might accidently injure them, something tragic for bunny and child alike. Since they are not wild creatures, they will not survive if left outdoors in a backyard to exist on their own and must be indoor-companions just like the family dog or cat. As domesticated animals, rabbits cannot survive on their own if released into the wild where they soon either die from predation or fall victim to cars and other hazards. Rabbits often show up in shelters when they become mature, no longer cute babies, and require as much care and cost as other family companion animals. And, unfortunately, many shelters canÕt guarantee that they will be adopted.

Baby chicks and ducklings are soft and cute and are often associated with the Easter season. However, parents or other adults should consider that health risks are involved. Young birds given as gifts can carry dangerous Salmonella bacteria that can cause serious illness for children. The bacteria can be transmitted to them by handling and kissing the birds that can have bacteria carrying intestinal matter on their body surface.

As with rabbits, fluffy chicks and ducklings very soon become adult critters that have their own special needs. Chickens are friendly social creatures that require dedicated and continual care. They are very sensitive to heat and cold and must have a clean, well-ventilated and insulated shelter to protect them from the elementsÉ all of which take time and effort. Because they are subject to attack by predators like raccoons and opossums, they need specialized housing especially at night. Chickens, like other animal companions, can become injured or sick and avian veterinary exams and care can easily cost over $100.

Ducks can be great companions and dandy snail-eaters, but they are also incredible pooping machines food in, food out and it can be a mess to keep their area clean. Like chickens, they have special dietary needs and can suffer heat stroke in hotter areas and require shade and water to cool them. They are not solitary creatures and, like chickens, suffer loneliness when kept alone.

Add to that, visions of that Easter chick or duckling producing eggs may be just that Ð a dream. When young chicks are purchased it is not possible to accurately determine their sex. The same holds true of ducklings, experts say that most ducklings sold at Easter are drakes, so parents hoping for fresh eggs are probably out of luck.

All in all, that live Easter gift can become a problem if special considerations for the animalÕs care and handling are not met.

When you reflect on the fact that the gift of bunnies, chicks and ducklings at this time of year are actually not a Christian tradition but of pagan origin celebrating the spring equinox and fertility, it holds no real connection with the Easter holiday.

OHS, the House Rabbit Society and the Humane Society of the United States, suggest doing extensive research before bringing any animal into your family and home and making the humane and safe choice of replacing live animals with an Easter gift of a plush toy or a chocolate rabbit.

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