California Cracks Down on Impulse Purchases of Easter Bunnies

by Michelle C. Pardo

Yes, it’s a thing.  Across the country, “impulse buys” of bunnies during Easter time result in thousands of rabbits being abandoned or brought to animal shelters when the novelty of the cuddly pet wears off.  In October of 2017, California banned the sale of commercially-bred dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores.  Potential owners instead have to acquire these animals from animal shelters or rescue organizations or buy them directly from a breeder unless the pet store sells rescued animals.  These avenues of obtaining pets often include more deliberate purchasers and vetting of the potential pet owner to ensure that the purchaser understand the animal’s lifespan, husbandry, health care, and housing needs.  California’s law went into effect in January of 2019, making this upcoming Easter Sunday the first Easter in which would-be pet owners could not make the “seasonal impulse bunny purchase” at pet stores that was said to have contributed to the problem.  US News & World Report reported that, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), approximately 2.8 million U.S. households have rabbits as pets, compared to 60.2 million with a dog, 47.1 million with a cat, 7.9 million with a bird, and 2.6 million with a horse.  Rabbits typically live about 10 years.  Most rabbits that are relinquished to shelters are eventually euthanized.

While California has been at the forefront of legislation to restrict individuals’ ownership and purchasing of animals and animal products, it is not the first state to enact such a law targeting impulse bunny purchases.  Boston and Salt Lake City already have similar laws and legislatures in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania are considering similar bills.  Many other states limit the sale of rabbits under a certain age or ban “dying” the animals’ fur, as rabbits with fur dyed in an array of pastel colors had also gained in popularity.