On 30 acres in Simpsonville, S.C., The Rabbit Sanctuary, Inc. provides a loving and safe home for life for abused, ill, or unwanted domestic rabbits who have been rescued from animal shelters, breeders, laboratories, and private homes.
There’s Bumper, a red New Zealand male rabbit, who was hit by a car in a busy store parking lot. And Suzie, who was discovered in a cage on the side of a busy road. Camelia was born to a mother rabbit someone rescued during Hurricane Katrina. And Manju was scooped up from a crowded New York City sidewalk.
||Bumper, like all good bunnies, loves the fresh salads he gets everyday at The Rabbit Sanctuary.|
A Good Life
Once at the sanctuary, these lucky rabbits are spayed or neutered and live a pampered life. They eat specially prepared salads every day and they live in spacious quarters that protect them from predators. They have the warmth of sunshine in the winter and cool shade in the summer.
An independent non-profit organization supported by The Fund for Animals, the sanctuary was established by Caroline Gilbert, who devoted her 30-acre farm to the work of The Fund.
More than 1,000 rescued rabbits have lived here since 1967. At any one time, about 50 rabbits call the sanctuary home. Gilbert helps educate people about how to live with rabbits as companion animals. Although the sanctuary doesn’t handle physical adoptions, supporters can virtually adopt, or sponsor, a sanctuary rabbit through the Adopt-A-Rabbit sponsorship program to help provide for their daily care and needs.
||The rabbitats are large, airy structures that provide the rabbits comfort and protection.|
Most of the rabbits are housed in large, predator-proof structures called “rabbitats.” The rabbitats are sectioned off into territories, each housing two to three rabbits. Each territory has a cushy straw-covered earth floor and a ventilated wooden house. In the winter, straw is piled thick and high to keep the rabbits warm.
These gentle little animals love to dig and many excellent diggers live at the Sanctuary. They can go a few inches down to make tunnels and hiding places, until they reach the hardware cloth that protects them from digging out--and keeps predators from getting in. A buffer zone of a few feet sits between the rabbits’ homes and the outside perimeter of the Rabbitats, so predators can’t get close and frighten the rabbits.
Other rabbits live in the special health care building. New arrivals stay here while awaiting a rabbitat space or for spay/neuter surgery. The facility also houses rabbits being treated treated for short-term ailments, as well as provides a permanent home for senior and special-needs rabbits.
Early Start to a Busy Day
Gilbert performs all of the daily work, while volunteers help with tasks such as deep-cleaning the habitats, maintaining the website and fundraising. She gets an early start preparing the rabbits’ special salads. They get a mixture of greens, including kale, parsley, cilantro, carrots, carrot tops, dandelion greens, broccoli, leaf or Romaine lettuce and cabbage – many grown on the property. The rabbits always have hay for eating.
After that, it’s time to make the rounds at the health care building. Everyone is checked over, nails are trimmed and ears are cleaned. Recuperating rabbits get their morning medications, and any in need of a visit to the vet are loaded into carriers. Feed and water dishes are washed, floors are cleaned, and the first of the day’s laundry begins.
||Every three weeks, volunteers and staff perform a deep cleaning of the rabbitats.|
Next, it’s on to the rabbitats, where the rabbits are checked over and given their salads along with fresh hay and water. Ten rescued Eastern Box turtles – with conditions that prevent them from living in the wild -- also live in the rabbitats. They too are checked over and fed cooked fruits and vegetables.
Throughout the day, people call the sanctuary seeking a new home for their rabbit, or from others who have spotted or rescued a discarded pet rabbit. Others may have questions about diet and care. Sometimes groups call to schedule a visit. In the late afternoons, the rabbits get their allotment of pellets, along with more hay and medications if needed.
The last check of the rabbits is around 11 p.m., when any final doses of medicine are given, water dishes checked, and hay replenished. The rabbits are bid goodnight and left to enjoy their safe and peaceful home.