Bunnies being dumped out of a trailer, a rabbit being flung through the air and rows of screaming children bearing down on a cluster of bunnies paralyzed with fear: Red Barn Rabbit Rescue documented this and more at the “animal scramble” at the July 13-14 Cottage Grove Rodeo (see our blog post July 16). Animal advocates are seeking to put an end to this annual event that they say is cruel and irresponsible.
Rabbits are hardy but fragile, Heather Crippen of RBRR says. Crippen says that animal scrambles, basically contests in which if a person can chase down one of the animals, he keeps it, traditionally used farm animals such as sheep, goats and pigs to give farmers a way of starting herds and later as a way of giving 4-H kids the opportunity to raise an animal. But at some point Crippen says the Cottage Grove Rodeo event, which is put on by the Cottage Grove Riding Club, became focused on pet rabbits.
Crippen and her daughter Alex run the area’s only strictly rabbit rescue out of their home in Creswell. It currently houses about 50 or so rabbits, and Crippen says events such as the animal scramble lead to more rabbits in need of adoption as the kids come home with pets they don’t know how to care for or their parents didn’t approve. She says 81 percent of rabbits will be homeless in their lifetime.
Scott Beckstead Oregon state director of the Humane Society of the United States says that rabbits are the third most popular companion animal in the U.S., “Yet this event teaches children that they amount to little more than a throwaway prize.” Beckstead, Crippen and others are looking into ways to end events like the animal scramble in Lane County.
Crippen is delighted the video her teenage daughter filmed, edited and posted on YouTube has created an outcry about the animal scramble. She says she tried to talk to the riding club about how cruel the event is to rabbits, but didn’t get a reply. Crippen would like the riding club to research rabbits and learn how events like this affect the animals. “As an experienced rabbit person, I’m telling you that it’s wrong,” she says. She says stress is one of the leading causes of illness in rabbits.
Crippen points out that in the video the rabbits are in “fear paralysis” — frozen with their ears pointed forward — as they are dumped into the rodeo arena, where normally in open spaces they would frolic, and finally begin to flee when the children begin to grab them. She says that in the melee a rabbit could get injured by being grabbed by a leg, or the stress of the whole thing is enough to eventually kill a bunny, especially one in the hands of an inexperienced new owner.
Local animal advocates have started a petition against the event at wkly.ws/1bu and video can be seen at wkly.ws/1bv
For more on Red Barn Rabbit Rescue or to donate to the nonprofit, go to redbarnrabbitrescue.org