Indiana Rex Rabbits

The Indiana Rescue: Hard Work, Lots of Cooperation, But More Work Still Needed!

~ July 16, 3013, by National HRS

In June 2013, Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, responding to a complaint about their care and treatment, confiscated 375 rex and min-rex rabbits from a breeder in the city of Indianapolis. The breeder later signed all but 15 of the rabbits, many of whom were pregnant, over to Animal Control (but once he realized that he could not breed those 15, he left them behind as well), leaving the shelter in a very tight situation.

Indiana Rabbits

Read about it here and here.

How would the shelter care for, much less place, all of these rabbits?
Indiana House Rabbit Society stepped into action. Their volunteers immediately got involved, going to the shelter those first few days, sexing and separating the rabbits, providing immediate care and medical attention, along with assisting veterinarians, and providing hay and food, medicating sick rabbits twice a day, and otherwise providing for all their needs.

Thankful RexIndiana HRS volunteers worked tirelessly, day after day, feeding and caring for the rabbits at the shelter, even as the rabbits grew from the original 375 to over 400, as some of those females gave birth. They also marshaled the help of veterinarians from near and far who began spaying and neutering the rabbits, and started the hard work of calling in the assistance of rescue groups and House Rabbit Society chapters from as far away as Maine and California who stepped up and offered their assistance in adopting those rabbits.

As of Sunday, July 14, all 400 rabbits were out of the shelter, thanks to the groups and individuals named below.        

A very grateful bunny says thank you!

But the work is not over yet.

Through Indiana House Rabbit Society and Exotic Animal Rescue and Pet Sanctuary, there are still 170 rabbits in foster care. These rabbits still desperately need homes, either locally in Indiana, or can be transported to adopters or rescuers in other areas of the country. Indiana HRS’s work is not over by a long shot, so if you can help at all, please contact to offer your assistance.
Indiana House Rabbit Society would like to thank the following groups and individuals for their help in this joint effort:

Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, for giving these rabbits these rabbits a chance to become cherished indoor family companions.

The following groups for taking the “Indiana 400:”

• Chicago HRS (IL)
• Buckeye HRS (OH)
• Cleveland APL (OH)
• Empty Cages Collective (NYC)
• Red Door Animal Shelter (IL)
• The Cat Nap (IL)
• BunnyFeathers Rabbit Rescue (WV)
• For Bunny Sake Rabbit Rescue (NJ)
• Angel Paws (IL)
• House Rabbit Network (MA)
• San Diego HRS (CA)
• Dane County Humane Society (WI)
• Too Many Bunnies Rabbit Rescue (CA)
• Animal Humane Society (MN)
• Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue (AZ)
• Friends of Rabbits (Baltimore/DC)
• Lollypop Farm (NY)
• Humane Society of Greater Rochester (NY)
• Save Animals Today (SD, CA)
• Hops and Lops (TN)
• IndyClaw (IN)
• Save the Animals Today (CA)
The following groups and individuals for sending in funds, supplies, or providing assistance with transport:

• National House Rabbit Society
• Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control
• New Mexico HRS
• Buckeye HRS
• Arkansas HRS
• Red Door Animal Shelter
• Oxbow
• PetCo Foundation
• PetSmart Charities
• Specks Pet Supply
• Dupage County Animal Shelter
• Chicago HRS
• San Diego HRS
• Stephen Van Linge and Trina Beatson
Veterinary Clinics for providing spay/neuter support:

• Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic, Indianapolis IN (Angela Lennox, DVM; Heather Goldstein, DVM; Amber Lee, DVM and support staff)
• Bargersville Veterinary Wellness Center, Franklin IN (Cindy Baker O’Dell, DVM)
• Deck Veterinary Clinic, Louisville KY (Tara Gunn, DVM)
• Rosehaven Exotic Animal Veterinary Services, Batavia, IL (Susan Brown, DVM; and Richard Nye, DVM; Macy Cooke; Sarah Dehn, RVT)
• Tippecanoe County Animal Clinic, Lafayette IN (Julia Becker, DVM)

Without the above groups, these rabbits would not have gotten the new lives they now have. If you’d like to help the remaining 170, please contact

How Friendly Are “Pet Friendly” cleaners?

By Gabrielle Jonas

How Friendly Are ‘Pet-Friendly’ Cleaners? Pet owners’ confusion about the safety of traditional mainstream cleaning products vs. that of “natural” products has prevailed ever since “pet friendly” cleaners hit the market some years ago.

According to Nature’s Source, a pet-friendly cleaner division of SC Johnson Co., ingredients are “natural” if they are derived from plant or microbial sources made with processing that does not change the substance chemically — such as cold pressing or steam distillation.

Sometimes it’s the very sound of the non-natural ingredients in traditional mainstream cleaners that can start a firestorm of concern. Years ago, an e-mail campaign that claimed that an ingredient in Swiffer Wet Jet — propylene glycol n-butol/propyl ether — caused liver failure in a dog.

The claim was debunked on, a rumor-monitoring site that pointed out the ingredient in question differed significantly from ethylene glycol, the potentially toxic ingredient present in most antifreeze products.

Safe according to the ASPCA

“Not all information sent via e-mail or posted on the Internet is necessarily accurate,” the site said. “It’s always a good idea to verify any information regarding pet health concerns with a veterinary professional.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stepped in and had its own Animal Poison Control Center veterinarian toxicologists staff test the product. The ASPCA declared the product to be safe for pet-owner use.

The ASPCA also defends Febreze against similar Internet-spread accusations. Claims that the fabric freshener caused serious illness or death in pets were unfounded, the non-profit determined.

Veterinary toxicology experts at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also ascertained that Febreze fabric freshener products were safe for use in households with pets.

Muddying the waters, however is the fact that the ASPCA partnered with Swiffer and Febreze in raising money for its work with homeless pets. Procter & Gamble, which makes those products, donated money to the ASPCA for every $10 of certain P& G products sold.

Going Organic

Today we welcome a guest post from Marlene Larkin, an HRS Educator in North Georgia. Marlene talks us through how making a small change in feeding organic produce to your rabbit can make a significant difference in their health (and yours!). Be sure to write down the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amounts of pesticides, and make certain you get the organic versions when shopping for your rabbit’s veggies.

You Want Me to Buy Organic Food for a Rabbit?!

By Marlene Larkin, HRS Educator

A recent five day illness, culminating in an eventual trip to the hospital for what my physician diagnosed as pesticide poisoning from an unwashed mango skin, taught me a very valuable lesson. Although you can’t see them, smell them or taste them, the overuse of pesticides and failure to properly clean fruit and vegetables to rid them, including discarded skins, can have serious and in some cases lasting consequences to humans and animals alike.

Pesticides are active poisons which are purposefully added to our environment because of their toxicity and ability to kill undesired types of plants, insects or fungus. In 1939 only 32 pesticide products were registered for use in the U.S. By 1993 there were over 22,0

Go Organic!

00! Today more than one billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S. alone.

Misuse or accidental exposure to higher-than-safe amounts of pesticides may produce poisoning effects which range from slight to severe. Pesticides which are labeled with the word “danger” are considered to be highly toxic, capable of killing a 150 lb human with an oral lethal dose from only a few drops up to one teaspoon. Moderately toxic pesticides carrying the word “warning” need only one teaspoon to one tablespoon for the same lethal effects. If so little is required to kill a 150 lb human, imagine how little is required to be lethal to your small five pound bunny.

Although different toxins can produce different effects, in general animals respond similar to many toxins and have higher absorption rates than humans; thus they can be more easily poisoned by conditions which are considered safe to people.

Some of the effects of pesticide poisoning, from either chronic exposure or a single toxic dose, may not appear until years after the exposure. These are called delayed systemic effects, meaning it takes more than 24 hours for the effects to occur, and may manifest in the form of cancers, skin disorders, liver or kidney disease, respiratory illness, and negative effects on the brain and nervous systems in both humans and animals.

Although symptoms also vary by toxin, the most common symptoms of rabbits with acute pesticide poisoning may include loss of appetite, abdominal pain and distress, excessive salivation, coughing, difficulty breathing, fur loss, skin sores, lethargy, weakness, paralysis, or restlessness, hyperactivity, seizures and coma. Because individual symptoms can mimic many other illnesses in rabbits, if the real culprit is either chronic or acute pesticide poisoning the true cause may never be detected.

What can you do to reduce pesticide consumption?

According to a list compiled by U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, there are twelve fruits and vegetables which were the most highly contaminated with pesticides, occasionally referred to as the “dirty dozen” list. Of that list nine of the twelve are items which you may commonly feed to your rabbit either as part of their normal diet or in treat form. The “dirty dozen” list, in the order of their contamination criteria* include:

  • Peaches 97% contaminated w/ pesticides (made worse by the fact that their soft skins allow pesticides to penetrate into the pulp)
  • Apples 92%
  • Celery 94%
  • Sweet Bell Peppers 86%
  • Strawberries 92%
  • Pears 87%
  • Grapes (imported) 85%
  • Spinach 70%
  • Lettuce 59%
  • For those of you interested in the remaining list for human consumption nectarines, cherries and potatoes also made the list.

It is estimated that switching to organics in these fruits and vegetables alone could decrease pesticide consumption up to 90%, improving the health of both you and your bunny.

The regulations to label food as organic vary by country, but generally require the avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs including fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, or irradiation, as well as other storage, packaging and processing requirements. Because pesticides can also build up in soil over time, organic farms are generally required to also be free of synthetic chemicals for a number of years (three or more.)

Hay, which is the staple of the rabbit’s diet, is grown by most commercial farmers using pesticides. Since you cannot wash hay prior to feeding it to your bunny without some very funny looks, consider feeding one of the organic hay varieties grown specifically for pet consumption. Oxbow Animal Health is one producer which makes organic hay, pellets and treats.

Finding a local organic provider in your area is another economic alternative. Although in 2005 only 0.5 percent of total U.S. farmland was certified as organic, the demand for pesticide and chemical-free feed to produce organic milk and other products has resulted in increasing alternatives in many local communities.

What can you do if your budget can’t accommodate the cost of organic foods?

Many pesticides are intentionally designed to remain on during wet conditions, therefore rinsing with water alone may not remove them. Worse yet, waxes or other sealants may also be applied to make the produce appear more attractive to consumers while sealing in the pesticide residue and making it even harder to remove. One effective means to remove both waxes and pesticide residue is to use one of the many commercially available liquid produce cleaners sold in many grocery stores specifically designed for this purpose. A less costly alternative is to mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a bowl and to soak the produce for a few minutes, followed by a good rinsing with water. You can also mix two tablespoons of baking soda and two tablespoons of lemon juice per 2 cups of the vinegar and water solution to make your own produce spray.

Making even small changes in your purchasing and food preparation can have lasting benefits in the long term health of both you and your bun.

*Contamination criteria includes % of samples w/ pesticides, % w/ 2 or more pesticid es, average # of pesticides, average concentration of pesticides, maximum # of pesticides on a single sample, total # of pesticides found.

Marlene is a HRS Educator and HRS member since 1991. She shares her home withher husband and four beautiful bunnies adopted from the North Georgia House Rabbit Society.

Wildfire Season: Tips for Being Prepared

Every year, from late summer into fall, many San Diego HRS volunteers and supporters are affected by wildfires. Some may have to evacuate with their own rabbits or foster rabbits, and some have to remove rabbits from shelters or pet store adoption programs.

The key to getting through wildfire season unscathed is being prepared. Follow these tips to help maximize your safety:

  • Make plans ahead of time with friends or family to evacuate to their home, with a back up plan if you can’t get through to the first location. Discuss in advance how the rabbits will be housed. If you don’t have a place you can go, check out evacuation centers schools, sports stadiums, fair grounds, etc. that will commonly house evacuees and their pets.
  • Purchase and have close at hand, not buried somewhere in the garage, a carrier for every rabbit or bunny pair. The best type is the hard-sided plastic carrier that will be sturdy enough to contain them for some time if needed. If you must evacuate on short notice, use these alternatives: laundry basket with a towel in the bottom, empty box, a gym bag or backpack, plastic storage tote, or as a last resort, a pillow case from your bed.
  • Keep frozen water bottles in the freezer so you can tuck one into your bunny’s carrier to keep him cool. Extras can go into a cooler with a small supply of veggies if you have them.
  • During fire season keep extra pelleted food and drinking water on hand. Keep a box stored in your car loaded with bunny’s usual pelleted food and some bottled water in case you have to leave quickly.
  • Once evacuated, set up impromptu housing:
  • Place a large towel on the floor of the tub, then bunny’s litter box and a plastic bowl for water. Pull the curtain closed or slide the glass door closed. To keep air flowing, if needed, turn on the overhead vent. Or, put bunny and her litter box in the floor of the stall shower (this works when traveling; it keeps litter box mess contained).
  • Take bunny’s x-pen if you have room and can fit in your car. Set up in kitchen or other area with a spot just out of traffic. You can double over pen walls to make it smaller and take up less room.
  • Set up bun in the laundry room, taking care to block off the entrance to the back of the washer & dryer (unplug them while bun is in the room).
  • Move some clothes out of a closet and set up bun on the floor, putting a bathroom rug or other washable item down to protect the floor. A coat closet or linen closet might also work well. Block off the front with a baby gate or an x-pen folded over onto itself.

Have a Safe Independence Day

Fireworks are a spectacular way to celebrate our nation’s birthday, but they aren’t much fun for our pets. They hear sudden loud noises and see flashes of light in the sky that don’t occur every other night. It must look like the end of the world to them!

Thousands of animals are injured every year as a result of fireworks. Rabbits especially are susceptible to fright and can easily harm themselves by thrashing around and trying to escape an enclosure. Some even have heart failure caused by terror.

It’s well worth taking a few precautions to ensure you and your pets both have a safe and happy Fourth of July.

  • Get inside: San Diego HRS advocates keeping rabbits indoors, year round, and especially during the July holidays when the heat and noise outside can be overwhelming for a rabbit. Make sure rabbits have a “bolt hole” or a safe place where they can retreat, inside their enclosure or somewhere in the house if they are free roaming. They need to feel secure in a dark, enclosed and quiet place, such as a carrier or cardboard box, during the worst of the noise.
  • White noise: If your pets are particularly nervous, try playing a radio at a level that will cover the noise of the fireworks so that the sound is constant, rather than a loud bang here and there. You can also accustom them to the noise by playing a radio a few days before the event, gradually increasing the volume until the culmination of the fireworks.
  • Block out the lights: Draw the curtains to block out the visual display of the fireworks going off, and turn on the TV or radio to provide distraction. Be sure to check on your pets regularly and reassure them that everything is okay. If fireworks are going off close by, stay with your pet and reassure them until it passes. If you are going out for a party, try to get someone to stay at home with your pets to reassure them and make sure everything stays safe.
  • Fireworks safety: It’s not just noise that’s the threat. Practice fire safety. Don’t let pets out into the garden at any time. Fireworks can be thrown over walls or hedges into a yard, so keep a close eye out for stray sparks or fireworks that could cause a fire. Keep all pets away from matches and fireworks, especially ones that are lit on the ground. Curious pets may try to sniff or eat fireworks, and pet hair can easily catch fire if they get too close. Be sure to have the phone number of an emergency vet at hand in case there is an injury.
  • Take a chill pill: If your pet is so nervous as to become ill at the mere thought of fireworks, herbal remedies, such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy, help calm pets.

How Does Your Garden Grow? Safely for your Bunnies!

Safe Gardens for Pets

Summer days mean tending our gardens every day, and spending more time outdoors. While gardens and yards are lovely for relaxing, they can also prove dangerous for our animal companions. Make sure your garden is bunny-safe, with these guidelines:

Poisonous Plants

Many popular outdoor landscaping plants—including sago palm, rhododendron, and azalea—are toxic to cats and dogs. We should include bunnies, just to be safe. Sago palm as well as mushrooms can cause liver failure, while rhododendron, azalea, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove, and kalanchoe all affect the heart. The ASPCA has a full list ( with pictures of toxic and non-toxic plants. Familiarize yourself with this and put their poison control hotline number (888) 426-4435 someplace where you can see it in an emergency.


Fertilizer can wreak havoc on the digestive tracts of our furry friends. Ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give your pet a good case of stomach upset and may result in life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Be sure to follow application instructions carefully and observe the appropriate waiting period before letting your pet run wild outside. Go organic if you can. Rabbit droppings are rich in nitrogen and great for rose beds!

Cocoa Mulch

Cocoa bean shells have become popular in landscaping, but they also attract animals with the sweet smell, and like chocolate, it can pose problems for our animal companions. Ingestion of cocoa mulch can cause a range of clinical signs, from vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle tremors to elevated heart rate, hyperactivity, and even seizures. Consider using a less toxic alternative, such as shredded pine or cedar bark, but always supervise curious rabbits in yards where mulch is spread.


If you can avoid using insecticides altogether, your garden will be a safer place for your furry friends. But from time to time you may need to treat an infestation, and then you need to use caution. The most dangerous pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poisons. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas—and read the manufacturer’s label carefully for proper usage and storage.


Composting is great for your garden and the earth, but make sure that any coffee grounds, moldy food, and certain types of fruit and vegetables that are toxic to rabbits (potatoes, rhubarb, beans, avocado) are totally inaccessible to your rabbit when they’re out being curious.

Garden Tools

I bet you never considered garden tools as a hazard, but rakes, tillers, hoes, and trowels can be hazardous to small bunnies and cause trauma to paws, noses, or other parts of a curious pet’s body. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. Store all unused tools in a safe area, not haphazardly strewn on the ground.

Warning About Flea Medication

A Warning About Flea Medications

Fleas! The very word can make you want to start scratching. Summertime means warmer and more humid weather, which is great for letting your rabbit enjoy the outdoors. Unfortunately, fleas love it, too. It can also mean increased risk of ticks and mites. Even indoor rabbits can attract fleas, and they can be a real nuisance.

As a rabbit rescue, we’ve heard too many sad stories about rabbits who have died after being given a flea treatment with an unsafe product. Be certain you know what you are giving your rabbit, and only under the supervision of your vet.

We’d like to remind our readers that there are some safe flea and mite treatments out there, and there are also some very unsafe, even fatal, treatments that you should avoid:

SAFE Flea Treatments:

  • Use a flea comb (available at the San Diego HRS store and at pet supply stores) to search and destroy!
  • Comb herbal powders of rosemary, sage or bay leaves through your rabbit’s coat. The aromatic oils in these herbs are meant to deter insects.
  • You may need to temporarily separate your treated rabbits from other bunnies and pets to avoid any licking and grooming off of the product.

If these methods don’t resolve the fleas, it’s time to phone your vet and have a safe medication prescribed.

SAFE medications:

  • Available by prescription only through your vet, who can specify a safe dosage.
  • Advantage, Revolution or Capstar

UNSAFE treatments to AVOID:

  • Beware of products marketed toward other animals such as cats and dogs; they can be lethal to rabbits.
  • Brands such as Hartz, Frontline and other over the counter products. Frontline in particular has caused the deaths of several rabbits, and has never been recommended by the manufacturer for use on rabbits.
  • Avoid anything containing the herb pennyroyal, which contains pyrethrin and is toxic to buns.
  • Never, ever “flea dip” or flea-shampoo a rabbit, as the chemicals can kill them.

When Temperatures Soar

When Temperatures Soar

When temperatures soar above 80°F, your rabbit is better off being a couch potato. If the forecast is for a scorcher, plan your excursions early in the morning or in the evenings when it’s slightly cooler. Make sure your bunny always has a shady spot to retreat to, and plenty of water to drink.

What to do if your rabbit is overheated:

Rabbits cannot sweat to cool down the way other animals can, so if they get overheated it’s an emergency.

  • Call your vet immediately.
  • Get your bunny to a cool spot as soon as possible. Drape wet towels over his cage or carrier and circulate the air with a fan.
  • Always keep a few frozen plastic bottles of water around for hot days.

Mosquitoes proliferate in the warm, humid summer weather. Not just annoying, mosquitoes can also spread the deadly myxomatosis virus and there have been reported cases in San Diego County. Fleas can be a problem, too, and if pesky enough can cause anemia. Give your rabbit a thorough combing before heading back in the house, or treat them with a mild herbal flea powder.

Never use Frontline on rabbits, as it has proven fatal.

Playing outdoors can be very healthy for your rabbit. They need Vitamin D from the sunshine, a chance to exercise, and plenty of stimulation for their curiosity. With a little planning, your bun can be cool as a cucumber this summer.

Keeping Your Rabbit Safe This Summer

Mr. Smokey Estante

Keeping Your Rabbit Safe This Summer

When temperatures rise, flowers bloom and birds sing, it must be time to sun your buns—the furry ones, that is! House rabbits appreciate fresh air, green grass and a breeze in their fur, but they need a safe environment to enjoy them in. Here are a few tips for you and your rabbit to have a safe and happy summer.

  • Rabbits are world-class grazers and will nibble on anything, but they won’t instinctively avoid poisonous plants. Make sure you know what’s growing in your yard and how to identify poisonous plants. Grasses and lawns can also contain harmful fertilizers and pesticides. Find out whether your lawn has been treated and with what, especially if you are at a public park. Keep the Animal Poison Hotline ((888) 426-4435) where you can get to it in an emergency.
  • Provide something safe and tasty for your rabbit to enjoy instead, such as an herb garden, or plant some bunny-friendly flowers such as pansies, nasturtiums, and geraniums.
  • Digging is one of the rabbit’s chief pleasures, and digging outside is preferred to your carpet. Dirt may contain unavoidable harmful bacteria and parasites, so if you see your rabbit eating large amounts of it, stop him. Otherwise, digging holes and burrowing in the yard is absolutely fine.
  • Predators are always a danger outdoors. Neighborhood dogs and cats, no matter how well behaved you think they are, see your rabbit as prey. Wild animals such as raccoons, possums, foxes and hawks pose an equal threat, even in the city.
  • Never leave a rabbit unattended in the yard. Keep them on a harness and leash, in an enclosed pen, or within a few feet of you at all times so they can play worry-free.