by Amanda Newsom
Last December around the holidays, my mom opened her back door to find a matted grey rabbit that clearly didn’t belong in the wild and texted me a photo, and so we were immediately on our all-too-familiar rescue mission for him. From my experience working with local shelters, I knew the best organization to contact first: the Georgia House Rabbit Society (GHRS).
We contacted them and agreed to help find a foster home until they could get him vetted and up for adoption. Luckily, a friend put us in touch with Stephanie Aarstad who had experience working in shelters and with rabbits. She agreed to take him in temporarily, and so the path to a new home began!
Quincy started his new journey in life as Stu Hopps, named by Stephanie’s boys who are big fans of the movie Zootopia. His fur was matted, he has a crooked foot from a prior injury that didn’t heal properly, and he didn’t seem to feel well when Stephanie first got him. GHRS provided everything she needed to care for Stu Hopps, from housing to food to toys—the only things they don’t provide fosters with is love and greens. They gave her an educational packet and talked her through everything she needed to know about caring for a rabbit.
Though Stephanie had been around rabbits at previous jobs as an animal control officer and veterinary staff, she had never owned one before. About her decision to foster Stu, Stephanie said, “I love rabbits and thought it would be fun to have one visit for a while—plus my kids would get a kick out of it. We had a spare room, a suitable cage and lots of love to spare.”
Once Stu was neutered and had a vet visit to be sure he was healthy, he began to feel better and act more like himself. Stephanie and her family earned his trust and learned more about rabbits as pets. They are quiet and clean pets, though, as Stephanie said, “successfully keeping a pet rabbit healthy and happy is not as simple as sticking it in a rabbit hutch outdoors and throwing it poor-quality pellets and water occasionally.” They do require care beyond the efforts of having a dog or cat, but they can be wonderful companions.
Stu enjoyed time on his floor pallet with his foster family and enjoyed playing with toys—his favorite was a jingle ball that he would throw up in the air! When he wasn’t playing or following Molly the Maltese (his new instant friend, mostly on his end) around the house, he would relax on the couch next to Stephanie or one of her boys. If he required pets, he would nudge one of them with his head to let them know they had a job to do.
Stephanie says, “I never knew rabbits had so much personality. Stu Hopps taught me so much about rabbits. By the time he left our house to be put on display for adoption at the [GHRS] shelter, he was a different rabbit. He trusted us, loved us and communicated with us. He was no longer skinny. His fur was shinny and soft, not matted, and he was happy. I absolutely took so much joy in turning something that was neglected and tossed out to fend for itself into a beautiful, healthy, loving furry friend.”
GHRS is the only licensed rabbit rescue in Georgia. A no-kill and self-funded organization, their goal is to educate, rescue, rehabilitate and re-home domestic rabbits. They work throughout the state to help rabbits like Stu Hopps, a classic example of the work that they do on a daily basis. With the help of Stephanie as a foster parent, they were able to find Stu Hopps a new home this May with a family who has four other rabbits. They named him Quincy, fitting as their fifth rabbit, and he bonded particularly well with their rabbit Jackie who is now his “wife.”
Quincy had a happy ending that could have easily ended badly, as he clearly was a pet who had been let out into the wild by someone who decided they no longer wanted him. Domestic rabbits cannot survive on their own in the wild, so taking them to a shelter is a more humane way to find a new home for an unwanted pet rabbit.
If you are considering a rabbit as a new pet, the GHRS is a perfect first place to look. They offer a Rabbit 101 class that will help you learn about rabbits as pets, and they have some great information on their website: HouseRabbitGA.com. If you’re not quite ready to commit to the 10 to 12 years as a rabbit parent, they are always looking for temporary foster homes or volunteers who can spend even a couple hours a week at their shelter in Marietta, GA!