Hop it... what full sanctuary is telling any new rescue rabbits
An animal charity has been forced to tell rescued rabbits to hop it as it can't take in any more of the popular pets.
Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Co Down is the Northern Ireland facility for abandoned and rescued rabbits. But now it has been forced to close its doors to the small mammals.
The Conlig-based charity is already caring for 29 rabbits and yesterday took delivery of another 15, which were being kept in unsuitable accommodation.
"We can house about 30 rabbits comfortably. Anything over that, we are pushing it," said animal welfare assistant Cerys Brown.
"We have 29 at the moment and another 15 came in today -it's a lot of work."
The latest group arrived after the local animal welfare officer flagged up a case in Bangor relating to a group of 30 rabbits.
They range from seven-week-old Mya and Jeremy, the youngest in the group, to four-year-old Tyson, an adult male.
"They were actually rescued rabbits. The people that have them were trying to rescue them, but the situation has got out of hand," Cerys said.
"The rabbits themselves are well cared for. But the rabbits were living in unsuitable accommodation; that is why they have come here."
The sanctuary has warned that its rabbit waiting list is now so long that it would take at least a year to take them all in.
"Basically, our rehoming had dropped off through the summer. Nothing was going to a home so we had no space for rabbits coming in," Cerys explained.
"We couldn't take anything on the waiting list because we had no timescale to give anyone who was bringing them in. There were more coming in than we were able to rehome and send out.
"It's far too easy to buy them from a pet shop, with no information, no understanding of the needs of rabbits." Rabbits are coming to the shelter from as far away as Londonderry, and even the Republic.
They range in age from seven weeks up to nine years. The latest group will eventually become available for rehoming after they have been cleared medically and neutered. They are currently living in a quiet, isolated area, away from the public section.
Meanwhile, there are lots of other rabbits waiting for a suitable home, from affectionate Nyree (3) and her companion Belle (5), who was found abandoned on a golf course in a very malnourished state, to albino female Kalin, found dumped in Killynether Forest Park.
There's also a little family group of rescue rabbits - two-and-a-half year old sisters Lolly and Casey and their dad Ozzy. Casey only has one eye after her other eye had to be removed due to an abscess. The sanctuary is now appealing to anyone who can provide suitable accommodation for the rabbits.
Anyone who can help should contact the sanctuary at 028 9181 2622.