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City Council Votes to Ban Sale of Rabbits at Pet Shops

By Sybile Penhirin | December 18, 2014 2:43pm
 Larry, an abandoned pet rabbit, with Erin Alanna, a member of the rescue group NYC Metro Rabbits. 
Larry, an abandoned pet rabbit, with Erin Alanna, a member of the rescue group NYC Metro Rabbits. 
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DNAinfo/Jenna O’Donnell

CIVIC CENTER — Bye bye, bunnies. 

The City Council voted Wednesday to ban the sale of rabbits at pet shops, because the cuddly little critters reproduce rapidly and wind up dumped at animal shelters. 

The ban on rabbit sales was decided after several animals advocates told the City Council that hundreds of rabbits are abandoned each year, according to Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who started working on a bill regulating pet shops back in 2009.

“People find it difficult to care for the rabbits, they’re not always as friendly as they look and they can reproduce quite rapidly,” Crowley said.

Rabbits are the most commonly surrendered animals in the city shelters, after dogs and cats, according to Christine Mott, chairwoman of the city Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee, who testified before the Council in November.

Because it’s hard to identify the sex of young rabbits, it’s not rare for pet lovers buying a pair of bunnies to end up with a male and a female, and eventually a litter of rabbits.

Rabbits, which become sexually mature when they’re about 6 months old, can have litters of up to 12 bunnies every three months, experts said.

Unable or unwilling to take care of that many pets, people end up dropping them at animal shelters.

Animal Care & Control of NYC, one of the city’s main animal shelters, said it took in 376 rabbits between January and October of 2014, up from 283 rabbits in 2011.

Some rabbits are also abandoned in city parks and end up being preyed on by larger animals, like dogs, hawks or cats, said Natalie Reeves, a rabbits advocate who founded Big Apple Bunnies in 2010.

But some pet shop employees said they didn’t think a ban was necessary.

"People can buy one rabbit at a time, or if they want to buy a pair, they can take them to the vet who can do a blood test to figure out if the pet's gender," said Joe Cridila, an employee at Petland Discounts in Midtown.

“I don’t see why they would ban the sale," he added. "Rabbits make great pets, they’re very popular, very friendly, and they’re easy to care for."

The bill is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio within a month, Crowley said, adding that pet lovers will still be able to adopt rabbits from shelters.

The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.