Domesticated rabbits are being dumped in the wild in Collier County

Published: June 9, 2022 6:54 PM EDT
Updated: June 9, 2022 9:52 PM EDT

As many as 100 bunnies are being illegally dumped outside in the wild in Collier County.

A bunny named George, is just one of many, dumped in a Collier County neighborhood last week.

It’s illegal to dump domesticated bunnies. They can’t survive in the wild.

A rabbit rescue said the pandemic is one of the reasons bunnies are being dumped. The rescue said the animals are also being dropped in Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres and Naples.

“It’s heartbreaking, its the sleepless nights, when you know they’re out there and you can’t save them all.. you just can’t. They are being bred and dumped much faster than we can help them,” said Jennifer MacBeth, president of the Southwest Florida House Rabbit Rescue.

MacBeth estimates someone dropped off about 50 to 100 domesticated rabbits.

They spotted some along Woodside Avenue and another batch around Pine Ridge Road and were able to save about 20 of them. They’re in the care of Collier County Domestic Animal Services.

“They are coming in a lot quicker unfortunately than they’re leaving the building,” said Grace Angel, an animal coordinator with Collier County Domestic Animal Services.

She said what is happening right now is highly unusual.

MacBeth thinks she knows why.

“The last few months, we’re attributing that to a lot of people got rabbits during COVID, they were home and they thought they would be serving as easy fun pets and realized wow they are a lot of work,” MacBeth said.

The housing crisis is also forcing people to move to places that may not allow rabbits, MacBeth said, forcing some to let their pets loose.

The problem with owners suddenly setting them free is that domesticated rabbits have no natural ability to survive as wild rabbits do.

Her message?

“What you just done is shifted your responsibility onto others and it’s also cruel, and it’s illegal and it’s just not fair for these guys to do that to them,” MacBeth said.

To ease the bunny invasion, advocates like MacBeth are pushing for a store ban.

“Honestly it’s not necessary when shelters are overwhelmed,” MacBeth said. “We’re overwhelmed with hundreds and hundreds of rabbits and they are all the breeds being sold in the pet store.”

Macbeth said another way to help is by educating the public about the responsibility that comes with taking in a domestic rabbit.

Of those dumped in East Naples, about 13 are left and up for adoption at Collier County Domestic Animal Services.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office said a detective will be reaching out to the rescue to offer assistance.