By JACQUELINE FERNANDEZ
LINCOLN HEIGHTS — The North Central Animal Shelter is getting a bunny-friendly makeover to improve conditions for the animals during the hot summer months.
The changes come after The House Rabbit Society, which rescues rabbits and provides education on rabbit care, conducted an assessment of city animal shelters. Earlier this summer, the Board of Animal Services Commissioners voted to spend $18,000 to improve rabbit keeping areas in various city shelters, including the North Central facility on Lacy Street that serves the Eastside.
Southern California spring and summer months aren’t easy on rabbits. Unlike cats, dogs and people, rabbits don’t perspire or pant to deal with the heat (they regulate heat through their ears). They’re prone to heat strokes, which can be lethal. Summer is also a time when the number rabbits taken to shelter increases.
“Our domestic breed rabbits are not closely related to the local desert cottontail; rather, they are descended from the European wild rabbit, and cannot cope with the heat in Southern California summers — temperatures over 85 are life threatening,” said Michelle Kelly, founder and President of the Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation, which provided input for the House Rabbit Society’s housing guidelines. “All companion rabbits should, for health and safety reasons, be housed in an indoor, temperature-controlled space.”
For the North Central Animal Shelter, the changes recommended to improve rabbit safety included moving the animals indoor during the summer months. A new indoor location will need an air conditioner and 9 banks of stainless-steel, modular cages, so the shelter can increase its holding capacity to 26 rabbits.
“Rabbits require specialized veterinary care, they must have water and hay at all times, and they are prone to heat stroke, and they can die of a heart attack from being chased,” said Brenda Barnette, General Manager of the L.A. Animal Services.
Barnette also advises that rabbits are generally not good pets for children.
“They have powerful back legs and are prone to jump, making any fall dangerous and could result in broken legs or a broken back.”
For more information on rabbit care you can visit larabbits.org or rabbit.org.
Jacqueline Fernandez is a Los Angeles-based reporter who’s written for various media outlets such as Los Angeles Wave, The Miami Herald and WLRN-Miami Herald News.
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