WEST ROGERS PARK — A no-kill animal shelter has an Easter message for those looking to buy a furry friend over the holiday: "Respect the Rabbit."
"People think they're easy, but they're not," said Marcia Coburn, president of the Red Door Animal Shelter. "It doesn't want to sit in the cage like a hamster."
Marcia said every year around Easter, people flock to pet stores throughout Chicago to buy rabbits — without realizing how much work it takes to care for a bunny.
So far, the shelter has persuaded four Chicago area pet stores to restrict the sale of rabbits in the week before and after the Easter holiday.
The campaign is dubbed "Respect the Rabbit."
One of the participating stores is Chubbrocks in Irving Park.
"They’re pets, too," said Jose Luque, who opened the shop last year. "Here we have a motto: Pets go home with love."
Luque said he only started selling rabbits after last year's Easter, but got a lot of requests for them in the days leading up to the holiday.
He said when Red Door contacted him and told him about the number of bunnies the shelter takes in after Easter he made a quick decision, despite the loss of sales.
"I wasn't going to take part in it," he said.
About a dozen rabbits a month are adopted from the shelter, Coburn said. Some of the critters they take in are dumped at the shelter's door, others are rescued outside after being abandoned by their owners.
She said the domesticated breeds don't stand a chance of survival on their own.
"We just took one in yesterday," she said. "It's pretty ill. It'll be here awhile."
Sometimes, the rabbits they take in have been painted Easter colors.
She said Red Door is "one of the only no-kill, multispecies shelters in the Midwest that does rabbits."
"If we took in every request," she said. "We'd take in 200 rabbits a week."
Thee Fish Bowl, an Evanston pet shop, agreed to stop selling rabbits, too.
"Animals are living, breathing things," shop manager Leslie Hurtt said. "They're not props for a holiday."
Hurtt said in other times of the year she tries to discourage customers who might be out on a whim to buy a rabbit for their children.
Kids usually lose interest during the animal's roughly 10-year lifespan, she said.
"Rabbits are kind of the no-respect pet," said Coburn, who has four bunnies of her own. "They're kind of considered disposable."
And one thing is for sure, she said, "They're pretty irresistible."