Caring, Confident Youth: Camp Fire Group Burrows In with the Bunnies

As many of you know, Long Beach City College has been dealing with a bunny-dumping situation for quite some time. It’s nice to know that they are getting such outstanding care and love from these kids. What a heartwarming article from the Long Beach Post! – Tamara

The Rabbit Population Management Task Force (RPMT) at Long Beach City College is getting some welcome assistance from the Waku Koda (Giving Friends) Camp Fire troop of Long Beach.

The troop’s community service group, Kiniya, is called on each year to come up with a service project, and the kids wanted to help out with the bunnies. A visit showed them to be having a heck of a lot of fun while they worked hard at changing litter boxes, cleaning cages, sweeping up floors, providing food and water, giving them treats (they like carrots, apples and basil, according to 10-year-old Abigail Rubin) and stroking their soft fur from the ears down to their little cottony tails.

Abigail Rubin doesn’t mind the work involved in rabbit care.

“You get to socialize with them,” said Mimi DaSilva, who is thinking of becoming a zoologist. “I like feeding the bunnies and cleaning the cages. It’s hard work, but it’s fun.”

The RPMT began as a task force to spay and neuter pet rabbits that were abandoned at the college and gave birth to countless bunnies who overran the campus.

LBCC employees Jacque Olson and Donna Pringle, with help from numerous bunny-loving volunteers and veterinary and medical services from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, trapped the domestic critters and had them spayed and neutered. Now, with 150 little long-eared creatures treated and adopted out, there are around 80 of them left waiting in the care of Olson, Pringle and a growing number of volunteers.

Last summer, Camp Fire mom Joanne Pon Rubin and her daughter Abigail discovered the project after hearing about it from the Unitarian Universalist church. With enthusiastic agreement from Abby, she decided that volunteer work at the RPMT by the 12 children in the Waku Koda group would be a worthy Kiniya.

Pon Rubin was impressed by the dedication and hard work of Olson, Pringle and the rest of the volunteers and by the condition of the rabbits and their environment: a large space filled with cages, playpens, and lots of donated clean hay, good food and water.

“We chose it because people here are completely devoted to dealing with these bunnies in a humane way, and we wanted to support that,” Pon Rubin said.

Mimi DaSilva takes bunny care seriously.

The RMPT project is humane and loving, providing unwanted rabbits with unarguably more care and caregivers than they’ve ever had. Volunteer Yuki is the bunny yenta; she pairs up rabbits who get along with each other. Volunteer Melinda has a list of names to fit the rabbits with. The entire volunteer staff makes certain that Oliver, Sparky, Elvis, Frank (for Sinatra), Lady Gaga and all the furry stablemates are fed, cleaned, played with and loved.

“And I take out the trash,” Pringle said. 

Daria Raby and Reese share a special moment.

The Camp Fire kids not only don’t consider caring for these rabbits as a chore but also express disapproval of people who do. The depth of their involvement was evident through their indignation over people who buy tiny bunnies for their families and then dump them when the rabbits get too big to be “cute” or don’t want to take the trouble to care for them.

“They should have thought before they got the bunny, because the bunny is suffering now,” Mimi said.

Indeed, Pringle said, rabbits who are dumped at the college do suffer. Besides being hunted and killed by natural predators, they’re at the mercy of wild rabbits. Wild male rabbits go alpha and maim or kill the domestic males, who have been found shuddering in fear and badly injured. The volunteers just took in eight bunnies who were covered with bites from other rabbits. One of them, Reese, had a leg missing, but when we walked into the bunny shelter, Reese had been neutered and was happily playing with Camp Fire volunteer Daria Raby.

Big John and Farina are a loving couple. John likes to snuggle under Farina, who mothers him.

Pringle and Olson are concerned about the ones they don’t find, however, since the program began and was publicized, rabbit dumping at the college appears to have tapered off.

“We still have a few, but it’s definitely decreased,” Pringle said. “Usually at Easter time, and then through the summer, it’s peak [dumping] times, but it’s been very quiet this year. And fewer baby bunnies are being born on campus, so that’s made a difference, too.”

Boots (male) and Peanut Butter Cup (female) make a sweet pair.

The RMPT will gladly accept donations and even more gladly will accept people who want to give rabbits forever homes. This is definitely an unabashed ploy on our part to get you to go down to LBCC and take home a pair of them, but be sure to heed young Mimi’s counsel and know what bunny care involves.

“You need to get ready to give them what they need: space, exercise, protection from predators if they’re kept outside, and interaction with people,” Pringle said. “They like to be in pairs—they’re very social (yeah! Take two!).

Make sure you don’t put two males together—even when not neutered, they can fight. Yes, spay or neuter them; in fact, female rabbits can get ovarian cancer if they’re left unspayed.

Rabbits can be box trained—they’re swell indoor pets—but rabbit-proof your house because they like to chew, and they may chew on electrical cords. Most of all, know before you get them—people get their pets and they’re cute little bunnies and in four months, they’re huge. Then with the cleaning and all the stuff—they dump them. It’s so sad for the animals and so irresponsible of the people.

And don’t buy a bunny—there are so many that need to be adopted, here and at shelters.”

Some of the many adoptable rabbits are pictured below. They need lots of care and love in a forever home. Remember that the Camp Fire kids are watching.

“Don’t drop them off at LBCC, or anywhere,” Abigail Rubin admonished.

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