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Cuddly Easter pets not always practical

March 26, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Humane Society is asking people to resist the urge to buy bunnies or chicks for Easter, no matter how cute or seasonal they may seem, Executive Director Maria Procopio said Monday.

Every year, people buy rabbits at Easter, seeing the animals as "cute and sweet," Procopio said. But for many, the novelty wears off, she said.

When that happens, some people leave the rabbits at animal shelters, Procopio said.

Others let the rabbits go free, thinking they will live in the wild, she said. Instead, many are killed by other animals or cars, she said.

Procopio suggested that people who want rabbits as pets adopt them through the Humane Society or other agencies.

The shelter currently has three rabbits.

It's not unusual for rabbits and chicks to show up at City Park within a month after Easter, City Park Supervisor Delbert J. Mason Jr. said.

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Usually, fewer than a dozen rabbits and chicks end up there, Mason said.

He said he figures some families decide they don't want bunnies as pets and turn them loose in City Park, he said.

Procopio said she would discourage people from buying chicks, unless they are farmers who want to raise them, she said.

Pugh's Petcetera on Pennsylvania Avenue sells rabbits, but much fewer than they did in years past, owner Janet Pugh said.

Twenty years ago, it wasn't unusual for the store to sell 200 to 300 rabbits around Easter time, Pugh said. Over the past few years, that number has dropped to about a dozen, she said.

The change in both supply and demand is a result of people being more responsible, she said. The store did not want to sell rabbits to people who are going to get rid of them later, Pugh said. And pet owners now tend to buy rabbits only if they are sure they want to keep them, she said.

Pets 'N' Stuff on Wesel Boulevard in Hagerstown had 130 rabbits for sale last week and had 85 on Monday, Manager Linda Jean Wilson said. Most will be sold by Easter, she said.

Wilson said she understands the Humane Society's concerns and feels the key is to educate customers.

Store employees talk to customers to make sure they don't want a cute animal on a temporary basis and understand buying a pet is a commitment, she said.

"I try to educate my customers as much as possible...," Wilson said. "I warn them that with any pet, there can be problems."

The store does not sell chicks.

"Rabbits can be domesticated. Chicks can't," she said.

The PETsMART at the Centre at Hagerstown follows a company policy against selling rabbits and baby chicks, Manager Mark Goodridge said.

"There are too many of them in the world right now," he said of rabbits.

If someone wants a rabbit, the company encourages adoption, he said.

The store discourages buying or adopting chicks because they grow up to be chickens and would make difficult pets, he said.

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