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NYC residents are adopting bunnies

April 9, 2020

Here’s a fluff piece to brighten your spirits.

Along with cats and dogs, New Yorkers are also bringing home rabbits as a fuzzy balm for the soul in trying times.

“A lot of people who hadn’t even considered rabbits before are fostering and having a good time,” says Colleen AF Venable, who has volunteered with rescue organizations Animal Care Centers of NYC and Bunnies and Beyond for three years. “All the rabbits in the shelter are currently in foster care —it’s very uncommon.” Usually, the shelter she works in has 20 to 40 rabbits.

When she realized the pandemic would be keeping her in her apartment much more than usual, she offered to bring home two infant bunnies in need of round-the-clock care. “This is the first time I’ve ever taken care of baby bunnies,” says the associate director at Epic! Kids, who is quarantining alone in Crown Heights with 3-week-old Nugget and Chonkers, and the rest of her bunny brood: 6-year-old Tuck, 5-year-old Cher and 2-year-old Maxi. “It’s kind of like my zen right now. It’s the thing getting me through every day: taking care of them and, in turn, they’re taking care of me,” she says.

The ACC doesn’t normally send out bunnies for fostering, but when it became clear that New York City was shutting down in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization made an exception.

“Basically, since March 13, that’s when we did our big push for fostering,” says Katy Hansen, ACC’s director of marketing and communications. They were quickly cleaned out.

“I don’t think we have any bunnies available right now,” she tells The Post, noting they usually do. “There’s an uptick in all adoptions, and people needing the companionship of an animal — plus they’re so cute,” she says, noting that bunnies have the added benefit of not needing to be walked.

For Thea Harting, the pandemic was the final straw in her adopting a bunny she’d long been enamored with. “I fell in love with her as a volunteer,” Harting tells The Post.

The larger-than-normal French Lop found a forever home in 2018 — only to be returned this December. “So I started fostering her again,” says the dog-walker. As much as Harting doted on the bunny, it had a number of health problems that dissuaded her from permanently taking responsibility for the rabbit — but when it became clear humanity was in for an shattering pandemic which would involve sheltering in place, the Williamsburg resident finally felt certain.

“Right before the quarantine, I was like, ‘This is ridiculous, I don’t even care. I want her to be with me always,’ ” Harting says of Latrice Royale, who she named after the drag queen. “It really removed any sort of doubt that I had.”

The 5½-year-old, 13-pound bunny has brought vital routine to Harting at a time when she can’t work, and the world feels like it’s falling apart.

“Not having work, I lost structure,” she says, but a silver lining to Royale’s bunny arthritis and other health issues is that Harting has developed a schedule around caring for her. “I truly understand now how animals can provide emotional support and how taking care of pets can help people through this sort of bizarre, long, collective experience.”

That Royale is entirely unaware that an epidemic is unfolding also brings relief.

“It’s all so stressful,” says Harting, “but she’s just being a bunny.”

And having Royale at home with her will make Easter tolerable — usually Harting would spend it at the shelter.

Nugget and Chonkers will be getting a special treat in quarantine with Venable. “I’m giving them their first banana,” she says, which “is basically catnip for rabbits.”

Thinking of adopting a rabbit?

For those considering getting a cottontail for quarantine, it’s still possible. “They absolutely could” still adopt one, says Hansen, but there are a few things to consider first.

Bunnies require special veterinarians, and NYC does not have many. “It’s a really specialized field,” she says, adding that rabbits are not low maintenance. “They’re in between a cat and a dog.”

“You can litter train them really easy, and their litter is hay, so your apartment smells autumnal,” says Venable, noting that they generally have a 10- to 12-year lifespan.

To make sure you have what it takes to be the parent of a bun, Venable’s organization is checking in on people’s house setups — digitally, now that visiting in-person is out of the question. “We’re doing virtual visits with the rabbits,” she says.

And while it’s not a small responsibility to take one on, it may well be worth it.

“I think the people who are going to be reaching out in the next few months for a rabbit are looking for something to help their well-being,” says Venable. “You can just sit there and pet a rabbit forever, and they’ll be happy.”

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