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* Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine

March 21, 2007

Purdue vet: Keep rabbits, chicks, children safe during Easter holiday

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University veterinarian urges parents to say no to live rabbits and chicks as Easter gifts.

Lorraine Corriveau, a pet wellness veterinarian, says the live chicks and rabbits found in many pet stores around Easter are not the low-maintenance pets people think they are.

"Often many folks think rabbits require only a small cage and don't need much attention," Corriveau says. "The truth is that they have dietary requirements that include a balanced diet of pellets, fresh lettuce and other vegetables and grass hays. They also require daily exercise and space enough to perform three consecutive hops in a cage."

Young children tend to be rougher and not understand that they can easily break a rabbit's back. In addition, Corriveau says rabbits have long toenails that leave deep scratches, especially if handled improperly.

When handling chicks, people need to be aware that they can carry salmonella and E. coli, which can cause diarrhea and possibly even death to young children. When the chicks get older they may even be dangerous.

"Chicks grow into chickens," she says. "Roosters have the potential to become aggressive when they hit sexual maturity."

After Easter, many animal shelters are overwhelmed by the number of rabbits admitted and may have to euthanize several of them. Rabbits are the third most relinquished pets to shelters, which are usually equipped to handle only a few rabbits and rodents at a time. 

Rabbits also are often released to the wild to fend for themselves, and those that don't starve become easy prey for predators, she says. 

"Before you give into the temptation of that cute, long-eared, soft, twitching-nose baby bunny or that soft, yellow bundle of chick, remember that a rabbit or a chick is not a toy and carry big responsibilities," Corriveau says.

Writer: Maggie Morris, (765) 494-24327, maggiemorris@purdue.edu

Source: Lorraine Corriveau, (765) 494-1107, corrivea@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

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