An Easter Bunny Blunder


As the Easter season approaches, animal shelters must brace themselves for the inevitable wave of rabbit surrenders. For decades, parents and grandparents have been buying bunnies for kids simply because they are a symbol of the holiday. Unfortunately, these rabbits are often surrendered months later when their owners lose interest or realize that they lack the necessary time or funds to care for them.

Contrary to common thought, rabbits are not necessarily the “kid friendliest” of pets. They are sensitive to noise, are very fragile and hate to be picked up. Much like cats, bunnies want attention at their convenience and can become aggravated if their humans don’t respect that. Like anything with teeth, bunnies may bite if they’re scared badly enough. A panicked rabbit can also do serious damage with their nails, which require routine trimming.

Rabbits are much more complex and expensive to care for than most people think. They have sensitive digestive systems and very fragile bones that can be broken by an accidental drop. A healthy rabbit requires pellets, plenty of veggies and unlimited access to timothy hay and water each day. Bunnies will also need to be spayed or neutered once they reach adulthood in order to prevent behavioral and medical issues.

Bunnies are fantastic pets for anyone who is willing to be patient and understanding of their needs. Aside from being adorable, they’re smart, affectionate and comical to watch. If you’ve done your research and are willing to commit a decade or more to these lovable critters, Easter just may be the perfect time to bring a rabbit home. Dozens of bunnies in all shapes and sizes are waiting for loving homes at the Western PA Humane Society.

Our rabbits are spayed or neutered, socialized, and often litter box trained. We encourage families interested in adopting to attend our weekly Bunny Romps, where they can learn about rabbit care and meet some adoptable pets. There are phenomenal web resources like the House Rabbit Society website and the Pittsburgh House Rabbit Club Facebook page for new and potential owners.


The Adventures of Gary the Foster Dog Continue

Gary, the 8-month-old pit bull mix, & I have spent this first week of foster getting to know each other. He learns my habits while I learn his. It’s a fair exchange, I think.

He’s teaching me how he signals to go outside & do his stuff. That’s just what I wanted. Then I can tell his permanent new “parents” what to look for. Good boy!

And he’s learned he can sit in the kitchen while I cook, but not to expect anything that he’s allowed to pick up off the floor. He sits quietly & watches, not really expecting anything except an occasional “good boy.”

Today, Gary spent the day just hanging out, learning as he goes. He learned I don’t mean the fly swatter to hit HIM!! Just flies. But, oh, he was afraid of it. I put it on the floor & let him smell it. Explore it. But he soon backed away, well, ran away. Nope, doesn’t want anything to do with that.

I told him & I’ll tell him again & again: That will NEVER happen, Gary. No one will ever hit you. He trusts and he’s “my” dog, but he is afraid to be hit. If I say “go” and point away from myself, he cowers & runs from my hand. If I say “sit” while I’m standing, he lowers his head and runs away.

He’s quick to come back with encouragement and a happy voice from me. We’ll be working hard on that. He follows me everywhere & sleeps next to me on the floor when I’m watching TV, sitting outside or at the computer. He does love me and he’s learning that I will never do him harm. If he feels insecure about something, he’ll run to me & sit on my foot or lean against me as he looks at the scary thing. Sweet baby.

Gary also spent a lot of time today playing — with Ursa or alone with a toy. He just loves to play either way. He tires himself out big time. But after a little nap, he’s ready to go again. He is just a puppy, after all.

And running at 100 mph around the yard. Honestly, if you didn’t know he had just 3 legs, you would never guess. He loves to chase a ball (always returns it too) or just run like crazy.

We had our first company since Gary’s been here. He was terrific. Not timid with them and not obnoxious either. He approached respectfully with a calm demeanor and wagged his tail and waited to be petted. How good!

Gary watches as Ursa, our own Pit, gets table scraps and he doesn’t. He’s very good about it, though, and just watches, never approaching.

As a foster parent, I think it’s my job not to encourage what might be seen as bad habits by an adoptive family. Nor do I let him sit on the furniture. That might seem cruel since Ursa is allowed, but Gary’s not my dog. A potential adopter might see those things as undesirable. Once he gets his real home, his new family can spoil him all they want. But, I feel it’s my job to make him as good as I can to increase his chances of adoption.

But, you see, everyone who fosters might not feel that way. Someone else might feel the need to foster just so the animals can get away from the shelter & get a vacation from the shelter to be hugged and cuddled. That’s okay too!!

Our dogs, cats, bunnies and other critters are fostered for reasons that are as varied as the reasons they ended up in the shelter in the first place.

If someone tries fostering & decides it’s just not for them after all. That’s okay too. Or, it might be that a person falls so in love with their foster, they just can’t part with them & end up adopting them themselves & that’s okay too, for sure!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that no style of fostering is more important or less important than another. All are needed!

Right now, it’s Gary, Ursa and me. And we’re doing just fine. He’s ready for his forever home right now. I’m just trying to make it a little easier to get one. That’s how I see my fostering job. Just a little stop on the trail home. Just a little help along the way.

Come to our rabbit party!

You — and your rabbit — are invited to a party!
This free event takes place on Saturday, July 17, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the W. Pa. Humane  Society, second floor.

In July 2005, the W. Pa. Humane Society launched the Pittsburgh House Rabbit Club to help educate rabbit owners about diet, behavior, health and more. Since then, the club has expanded to support all local shelters that care for rabbits.

To celebrate the rabbit club’s very special FIFTH anniversary, we’re inviting you and your bunny to a very special RABBIT PARTY.

At the Rabbit Party you can:

— SHOW OFF your splendid bunny to a roomful of “rabbit people.”
— ASK the rabbit experts your questions.
— LEARN about proper diet, nail-cutting, other grooming techniques, housing, toys and games for rabbits … and more.
— BUY rabbit-safe toys, treats and other supplies.
— FIND OUT all about fostering and volunteering at the shelters.
— MEET rabbits looking for new homes.
— SCHEDULE a future “bunny blind date.” During a blind date, your bunny is introduced to several shelter rabbits to find the best match.
— VOTE for the cutest bunny in attendance … and more!

Bonus: The first 30 rabbits will receive a sample bag of locally grown organic farm hay.

RSVP no later than noon on Wednesday, July 14, to Rabbit Club co-founder and Humane Society rabbit volunteer  Mary Cvetan at

We hope to see you — and your bunny — at the Rabbit Party!

Why I Volunteer

Lots of people stop by to visit with our animals when we have them at malls, stores and other venues to meet the public. They often say:

“I don’t know how you people do it. I’d love to volunteer, but I’d want to take them all home.”

“I’d volunteer, but I know my heart would break every time I went into the shelter.”

“How DO you people do it?”

The answers are yes, we want to take them all home all the time, and yes, our hearts do break for them.

The animals have landed here at the W PA Humane Society for so many different reasons. Some are strays, wondering the streets; some are taken from abusive circumstances; some are in families who just couldn’t financially care for them anymore; some are the products of divorces; some belong to those who moved & couldn’t take them; some are homeless because their beloved owners became ill or died; some are here because they just aren’t wanted anymore.

Whenever I go into the shelter, it’s tough to see all the expectant faces. But at the same time, I can’t wait to see them. They all look at me & ask: How did I get here? Does anyone care?

Yes, we care so much that we are willing to put our own feelings aside. We love you enough that we’ll give up our time just to make sure you feel loved and not forgotten. We do this willingly because you need us so.

We take many forms – off-site volunteers, like me, who take animals away from the shelter to meet the public & show that we have decent, loving, good animals available for adoption. Hopefully, they get a home or attract someone to the shelter to find a new pet, when they may have gone elsewhere before they met our animals.

Volunteers foster those who need a little time to recover from illness or mistreatment; time to raise a litter; time for a “cage break” so they can remember what it is like to be in a loving home, instead of a cage.

There are those who do paper or computer work; facility cleanup and maintenance; feed the animals; walk the dogs; cuddle the cats; do bunny romps; adoption counselors who help families find the pets that fit nicely into their homes; those who work at fundraisers; and many more volunteer positions. All are important.

Big sloppy kisses and soft purrs next to your cheek are the reward. The animals are so grateful for every thing done for them. Mostly, they are grateful for hugs, kisses and kindnesses from you. The best feeling is when they leave the shelter to start their new lives with their new families. Knowing that you helped that animal begin a new life is a feeling beyond description.

Since I’ve been volunteering, it’s become very plain to me. This is something I MUST do. This is something that means something.

This is something I can do to pay back some of what animals have given to me throughout my life. I can help the unfortunate ones find their way home again. What a joy!

Volunteer Coordinator Chris Whyle has a tag line at the bottom of her email. We don’t know who wrote it, but it says it all.

I looked at all the caged animals in the shelter…the cast-offs of human society.

I saw in their eyes love and hope, fear and dread, sadness and betrayal. And I was angry.

“God,” I said, “this is terrible! Why don’t you do something?”

God was silent for a moment and then He spoke softly. “I have done something,” He replied. “I created you.”