By FRED SWEGLES
More than 60 rabbits taken off the streets this summer are available in San Clemente, according to the Pet Project Foundation, a support group for the San Clemente/Dana Point Animal Shelter.
They’re thought to be offspring of four pet rabbits set free from an apartment complex when their owner moved out years ago. Rabbits ages 6 weeks to 5 years are up for adoption. Those with medical issues have been restored to good health, the foundation says.
Some words with Cindy Fisher, who helped direct the rescue:
Q. Where was this?
A. An apartment complex in San Clemente … I’d rather not let (the location) get out. I don’t want other potential rabbit dumpers to get the idea that it’s an OK place to dump rabbits.
Q. What kind of rabbits are they?
A. Not cottontails, the native rabbits. Those belong in the wild. These are domestic rabbits whose coloration is clearly different from that of the wild ones. Cottontails do not make good pets. They’re comparable to feral cats. Domestic rabbits raised in the wild do not become feral, as cats do. The ones we’ve captured are extremely friendly and quite tame.
Q. How long did the rescue take?
A. We’ve been working on catching the rabbits on various weekends since late July. We finally caught the last of the rabbits this past weekend, we hope.
Q. How do you do it?
A. Usually we set up a bunch of exercise pens, put some food in, waited for them to come in, then surrounded them and scooped them up. There were two main areas in which rabbits congregated, so we selected those to set up our enclosures. This was quite a challenge. Many times the best areas for capture were on hills or in dense bushes.
Q. Did any escape?
A. When we placed the pens, we were careful to make sure they were flush with the ground so the rabbits couldn’t wriggle underneath. Sometimes we used towels to help block openings on rough terrain. Very small rabbits, like several of the babies we captured, also required special measures. Small rabbits can work their way through the bars on the enclosures and escape. One time, we lost two of them that way. We caught them the next time by lining the enclosures with fine wildlife netting. Those were the final two rabbits we captured in the area.
Q. How many volunteers did you have?
A. Depending on the day, four to eight volunteers. We also had help from some of the children and a couple of the adults in the neighborhood.
Q. Did Coastal Animal Services Authority have a role?
A. The director, Kim Kurtz, wrote up a letter that we could show to the residents so they understood that we were legitimate. We also arranged with Kim to continue to bring the rabbits into the shelter as space opens up and to have a special rabbit adoption day in August to try and find homes for the rabbits.
Q. What has happened since August?
A. The shelter staff has been very helpful in putting the rabbits into the shelter system. Pet Project Foundation has been paying for all the medical care and alterations. Many of the (rabbits) are too young to be spayed or neutered (about 40 of them), so PPF is still facing a substantial expense in dealing with that. We’re very fortunate to have a wonderful veterinarian who is giving us a break on the cost of the surgeries and medical care.
Q. How many adoptions?
A. Seven. Most of the others are in temporary foster care with volunteers and friends because the shelter only has 18 cages available at any given time.
Q. How can people help?
A. We still have a great need for foster homes. … We are promoting the rabbits on several websites. We hope to have more adoptions soon. We are dealing with over 60 rabbits, though, so it will take some time.
Q. What is the health of the rabbits?
A. Generally good. We lost a couple of them. Some of the rabbits have a fungal infection (ringworm), and we’re still working on clearing those up. Many of them had fleas and were treated for them. Several of the females were pregnant at the time of spay.
Q. Any behavioral concerns?
A. The temperament of these rabbits is amazing. They are all very friendly and easygoing, used to people and will make awesome pets. They’re even tolerant of younger children, which is unusual.
Q. How does this compare with other rabbit rescues?
A. This was our first rescue operation in San Clemente. We’ve conducted a couple of rescue operations in Dana Point, but they weren’t of this magnitude – about 10 rabbits each.
To adopt a rabbit, contact the Pet Project Foundation at email@example.com or 949-595-8899.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 949-492-5127