With Easter right about the corner, the vision of fluffy bunnies, sweet ducklings and tiny baby chicks fill the minds of curious, animal-loving children. And because these adorable animals go hand-in-hand with the sensation of new life and growth of the springtime, parents often fall victim of believing their children should be gifted a bunny, duckling or chicken for Easter. After an afternoon spent at the Antioch Animal Services, located in Antioch, CA, we learned that these adorable spring-time friends are not necessarily the best addition to a family if you are not prepared for the tasks that lie ahead.
The Gift of a Companionship
The idea of a new pet brings warm fuzzies to the hearts and minds of most. Tiny little faces, innocent eyes, and playfulness of puppies, kittens, bunnies cannot be denied as adorable. In fact, biology gives humans this innate desire to coddle, cuddle and care for these tiny little animals. Even something as small and innocent as a duckling or a chick makes our hearts melt just enough to want to bring one home.
And truly, when we think of all the picture-perfect moments on an early spring morning, what is sweeter than your little ones dressed in the Sunday best with their little hands full of a tiny little animal. And truly, on Easter morning, nothing is more Instagram friendly than your baby snuggled up to another baby – regardless of it being a bunny, puppy or chick. The cute factor and the innocent factor – matched by our human desire to care for those that are young and helpful means we adopt pets that are cute to start with but may not be the perfect match for life, outside of Instagram.
The Long-Term Responsibility
Regardless of what little animal you think is going to be the best pet for your family, it is important you remember that a tiny little bunny or sweet little puppy grow into large animals that demand a very high level of attention and care, maintenance, time and money.
Ducklings and chicks grow into large animals that require a coop for safety and may not even be legal for you to have on your property. Some municipalities have lax rules regarding, foul – allowing homeowners in suburban areas to have up to 10 birds on their properties. Other cities do not allow even one. If you purchase a chick for an Easter gift, you may even end up with a rooster. That means early mornings and potentially angry neighbors.
Other animals such as bunnies begin as a tiny little fluff of fur. But, within a few months, you will have an animal that is anywhere between 6 pounds and 12 pounds. Rabbits live up to 10 years and require safe housing, fresh hay, lots of enrichment activities and a lot of cleaning and care. Most are quite friendly – but, like dogs require constant socialization.
Dogs and cats are much more common pets. We may be more familiar with the care of these animals, but what cannot be overlooked is they have a very long life-span, require a lot of socialization and care, and enrichment activities.
Responsible Pet Ownership
Regardless of the pet you find is an ideal match for your family, ensuring you are a responsible pet owner is of the utmost importance. Adopting, or purchasing, baby bunnies, chicks, ducklings or a puppy or kitten, without doing your research is a risk. The care of these animals is all quite intensive and will require a lifestyle change for you and your children. Taking steps to ensure you have the correct indoor housing for your animals, food resources, time, enrichment activities and access to medical care is important. Plus, to be confident more animals will not end up in pet shelters like Antioch Animal Services means you take the time to spay or neuter your pet. This act alone will decrease animal populations and help animal shelters not have to deal with animals that have been abandoned or found stray on the street. All animals deserve homes where they will receive all the care and attention they need. Bringing home a sweet little animal to celebrate the holiday means you are committing to the steps of responsible ownership. Pets are more than photo-ops. They become part of the fabric of your family.
How You Can Help
The first, and perhaps, main way to help is to ensure you are a responsible pet owner and have your pets spayed or neutered. Most animals that find themselves surrendered at pet shelters or living as strays in the streets are there because their parents were not spayed or neutered, and families did not want to take on the burden of additional pets. For low-cost public spay/neuter services visit ARF Mobile Clinic.
Second, take time to donate time, or other resources, to your local shelter. To help at Antioch Animal Services, the Antioch High School track and cross-country team started a program called “Panther Tails.” In this program, the runners are paired with an animal in the shelter. While the athletes get their runs in, the animals are taken out for a long run under the sun. It’s a perfect match of community, community giving, student development, and animal care.
Antioch Animal Services is the only shelter in the far East Contra Costa County. There are several non-profit pet rescue organizations scattered throughout East County. The farther west you travel along highway 4, the more pet sanctuaries you will find. Many of these organizations need people to help. Animals require attention, cleaning, walks and feeding. Volunteers bear much of the work. If working with animals is not up your alley, monetary donations to cover animal costs are always welcome.
Visit https://www.antiochca.gov/police/animal-services/ to learn how you can support our local animal services agencies.