I have always loved animals, as a child they were my best friends, and now are a very important part of my family. The saying 'Birds of a feather' is very true. All of my close friends treat their pets with love, care and respect, those unable to give a pet the life they consider a pet should have, do not have one, or certainly do not have as many as they would like!
I was in my early thirties before discovering the joy of rabbits. My mother would not allow us as children to have rabbits explaining they kick and bite, and just twitch their nose. She was correct about the fact they can kick and bite, but there is certainly more to them than a twitching nose!
My first rabbits were like a baptism of fire. They were Giant French Lops, unwanted by the breeder as they were past their 'sell by date'. Rosie was moody, bad tempered and mean. Pansy had three legs, a fact the breeder did not know until she whipped her out to go to the garden centre for sale. Pansy was much more gentle and handleable.
Poor Rosie had 'sticky bottom'. I took her to 3 different vets but it was never put right. I managed to clean her twice a day. It was a major struggle, but allowing her to run around with lots of space and freedom meant I was able to maintain her for a number of years.
I now know that none of these vets were really specialised in rabbit care. I was never advised to spay or vaccinate them. I knew about vaccinations from looking it up, but I did not realise the full implications neutering, or rather not neutering, can have.
A friend, Jane Fry, and I started to help walking the dogs at 'Teckels' an animal boarding and re-homing centre. It was obvious cats and dogs were the main priority, there is so little money to go around unwanted animals and this is where they felt the money was best spent. I started to adopt the rabbits who came in and offered to look after them for Teckels until a home could be found. Eventually I had 12 and realised it was not going to work this way!
When my elderly parents came to live with me I needed to be home much more. So, in early 2003 my friend and I decided to set up a rescue specific to the needs of the rabbits and guinea pigs who came into Teckels and to ensure they were vaccinated, neutered, homed in suitable pairs and to large accommodation.
Generally, at any one time, I can have up to 100 rabbits and guinea pigs here waiting for their 'Forever Home'.
I have learnt a lot, and I am continuing to learn each day. Rabbits really are not the ideal pet for children, and if homed to a family it is imperative they have easy going, gentle, unafraid rabbits. Nothing is black and white. There are general rules, but it is worth re-thinking all of the time, so, as much as possible, I try to be flexible in my approach. No space is too big for rabbits. Aggressive rabbits can be turned around, but you really need the patience and time to do this. Regrettably there is not enough of this in rescue!
I have found a brilliant circle of friends/volunteers. Rescue can be a very lonely, thankless occupation, you need support and encouragement, a hand with cleaning out and fund raising just to keep going. And I consider myself very lucky indeed to have the type of friends who do not let you down, and the animals of course! After all, it is 7 days a week, you cannot expect the animals to feed and water themselves one, or two days a week!
And, sadly, I feel the situation is not getting any better. Not in this area anyway. All we can do is help the ones we are able to take in. It is very rare a bunny comes in neutered or even vaccinated. We have to find the money to do this, we do not get grants from the Government. So 'non profit making' should really read as 'at great expense to Alice, her husband and friends'!!
I consider rescue to be a stepping stone for the rabbit or guinea pig. I have a few rabbits and guinea pigs of my own, and I am happy they have a happy, healthy life. But, it is impossible for me to give all of the animals here the space, attention and care I feel they need. My motto is that they go to better, to their Forever Home, and this is where you come in.