This is from the Beachreporter
Redondo Beach News
Redondo rabbit lady promotes education and adoption
By Sascha Bush
(Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2008 9:32 AM PDT)
By Sascha Bush
(Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2008 9:32 AM PDT)
“This is the most frightening time of the year for us rabbit rescuers,” said Linda Baley, Redondo Beach's unofficial “rabbit lady.”
“Do you know how many dumped rabbits there are? Do you know how many dumped rabbits there will be after Easter time?”
In the home she shares with longtime boyfriend Daryll Strauss, Baley fosters 17 of the more than 30 abandoned rabbits she rescued from Alondra Park since December. Those 17 rabbits sparked a barrage of complaints to the city by one of Baley's neighbors, prompting a bunny exodus up and down Rockefeller Lane as friends and neighbors each brought home three rabbits and helped Baley comply with Redondo's three-pets-to-a-household law. When it was determined that the law did not specifically apply to rabbits, her 17 refugees came back home, to await adoption by responsible, loving families.
“I've always had rabbits, and the people in the neighborhood know that we have a couple of house rabbits and they drop off the occasional bunny when one gets dumped,” explained Baley. “I got a call from a lady on Dec. 23 saying there were two rabbits on the island, that there was nothing for them to eat and would I come get them.”
Alondra Park features a small, gated-off island designated as a California native plant and wildlife sanctuary, and it is a magnet for irresponsible pet owners who will cross the footbridge to drop their rabbits over the fence.
“There's eagles, there's hawks, there's raccoons. Volunteers try to protect the plants (by caging them) providing even less food for the rabbits. There's nothing there for the rabbits but predators,” said Baley.
On Dec. 26, after dozens of phone calls Baley was allowed access onto the island, where she found more than 30 hungry rabbits. Several were suffering from raccoon and hawk injuries, respiratory illnesses, parasites and other afflictions.
Nearly all the does were pregnant. Since then, Baley has rescued all but two or three of the rabbits (she set up a hutch and left food on the island until she can catch them). She has enjoyed the support of the Amanda Foundation, other rescue groups and daily donations of produce trimmings from the Hermosa Beach Ralphs supermarket, which has helped to defray some of the approximately $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses she's incurred from veterinary care, bunny birth control and nursing the rabbits back to health.
But not everyone has been entirely supportive of Baley's crusade to save the rabbits from Alondra Park.
“People are actually sad that I took the bunnies (from the park),” said Baley. “There are actually some people trying to dump more rabbits and trying to bring the bunnies back. We're working really hard to get signs and better gates put up. It's a bad scene.”
Too, Baley's neighbors didn't want a foster home for wayward bunnies on their block, complaining of excessive odor, noise and possible health risks.
“Everybody in the world, every police officer, every animal control officer, has been in my backyard, and no one has smelled anything,” Baley protested, but earlier this month, the city ordered her to reduce her flock to just three rabbits.
“Our solution was all the neighbors down the street took three bunnies each,” said Baley.
According to District 4 Councilman Steven Diels, the question of the allowable-bunny law made it all the way up to Police Chief Joseph Leonardi and City Attorney Mike Webb, who determined that the city's ordinance specified just dogs and cats, not rabbits.
“We decided to go easy on her based on that, based on this being a one-time rescue,” said Diels. “My position was to find a solution that would help (Baley) out, without taking away the rights of her neighbors and letting them know that the rabbits were only temporary.”
Baley can still be cited by the city, said Diels, based on NPDES violations, if any rabbit droppings are washed or swept into gutters or storm drains.
Baley is thankful for the reprieve, as her house is again full of friendly, little bundles of fur, and she is focused on finding permanent or even temporary foster homes for the rabbits.
She is frustrated by the number of people who get rabbits, perhaps as cute Easter bunnies for their children, and then abandon them when the rabbits are no longer tiny babies, or when the rabbits don't behave like cats or dogs do.
Baley has taken in rabbits that had been left on school campuses, building sites and left by people who flat-out just don't want them anymore. Judging by the number of animals on the island, she suspects that local breeders or pet store owners may be telling people that if they can't handle their pet rabbits, they can drop them off on the island in Alondra Park.
In February, Baley confronted a mother, with five children in tow, about to do just that.
“'She's not cute anymore,'” the mother had said. “‘We thought she could run and play at the park,'” recalled Baley. “I told her that if she dumps her rabbit here, because it isn't a wild rabbit, she's basically guaranteeing it a slow and painful death.”
Baley said she took the rabbit from the woman, which was crammed into a tiny birdcage, and told her, “It's OK, because your bunny is going to get a good home now, she'll be litter box trained, fixed and she's going to be loved. And when animal control knocks on your door, it's six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.”
But, laments Baley, animal control doesn't place a high priority on prosecuting people who dump their unwanted bunnies. Rabbits are the third most euthanized pets, and most shelters and rescue groups are at capacity with abandoned pet rabbits.
One of the services Baley offers through her Web site, Too Many Rabbits!, is preschool and elementary school rabbit education classes. She hopes to educate teachers, children and most importantly parents about adopting rabbits, the unique handling and socializing rabbits require, and against abandoning these rather fragile animals in parks.
Neighbor Dulce Friedman met Baley through an educational program held at her son's preschool. Friedman's family adopted a pair of rabbits from Baley two months ago.
“There were a lot of things that we really didn't know, and she educated us about how to handle the rabbits. She brought me hay, set up a litter box and within a week our bunnies were already litter trained,” said Friedman. “She really knows what she's doing, and she loves those rabbits.”
For more information on fostering or adopting the Alondra Park rescued rabbits, visit www.toomanybunnies.com.
Several of the female rabbits rescued from Alondra Park were pregnant. Linda Baley holds in her hands one of the last litters from that rescue. Baley said it is important to understand that at just 3 months old, a single pair of mature rabbits can, in one year’s time, produce more than 3,500 offspring. (photo by Chris Miller)