CZAAWE Resource Article

Quantifying the Shelter Rabbit Population: An Analysis of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Animal Shelters
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Scholarly work on the nonhuman animal shelter population has widely focused on cats and dogs. As a result, little is known about the population dynamics of domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in shelters. The records from 4 companion animal shelters in Massachusetts and Rhode Island were analyzed to describe these dynamics. A majority of the rabbits at the 4 shelters were surrendered by their caregivers, were between 1 and 6 years old, and were unaltered at the time of intake. The most common reasons for surrender were the caregivers' inability to care for the rabbits or a lack of interest in doing so. Over half of the total rabbit population was subsequently adopted and the overall live release rate (percentage of rabbits leaving the shelter alive) was 75.54%. In some cases, the use of a foster care system was correlated with a decrease in the euthanasia rate. The results from this study will help the sheltering field clarify the scope of the problem of homeless rabbits.