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Pet specialists caution those considering buying rabbits

With the Easter holiday next weekend, an organization that protects rabbits said animal shelters will be full in the next few months with impulse buys that turn into unwanted pets.

"Kids want a rabbit, and (families) don't know what they're getting into," said Alyssa O'Toole, co-founder of Rabbit Wranglers, a group of volunteers who help abused, neglected and abandoned rabbits. About 30 members of the group shelter rabbits.

O'Toole and another volunteer Saturday brought three rabbits to the annual Easter Egg hunt and related activities at Angora Gardens in White Oak. Hundreds turned out there for an Easter Egg hunt, face painting, flower sales and other activities. The facility is a working farm that offers work opportunities for people with mental and physical disabilities.

Children wearing cardboard rabbit ears laughed as they tried to pet a 2-year-old black and white checkered giant rabbit named Atticus, who had no problem quickly backing his 12-pound frame away from outstretched hands.

"Wow, he's big!" one man said, as owner Suaz Forsythe, 50, of Lawrenceville tried to calm him. She added that she adopted Atticus after he was found abandoned on a road in the North Hills.

"People don't realize that dropping a domestic rabbit outside is giving them a death sentence," Forsythe said.

O'Toole said there's a lot that people don't know about rabbits, including that they can be house trained, and even trained to recognize their names and do some tricks on command.

"They can be a little bit more high-maintenance than a dog or a cat," O'Toole said, "but they do make great pets."

Tara Hineman, 32, of Ambridge, Beaver County, said that she grew up with rabbits as pets. Her five children don't have one now, but once the family moves to another house, she said that's a possibility.

"I wouldn't have a problem with that. I liked having rabbits," Hineman said.

For additional information about the organization, go to www.rabbitwranglers.org .

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