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Living Outside the Cage: A New Home for Rabbits

By Katie Vecchi, MSc, MA, KPA-CTP, Director of Behavior & Placement, Animal Friends

Throughout the year, Animal Friends has been making various facility changes to help improve our campus and directly impact our lifesaving work. We could not be more excited to announce that our latest project is the creation of a brand-new rabbit housing area!

When this project started, we determined numerous goals of the space. Some of these included improved and progressive rabbit housing, an emphasis on enrichment and stimulation, various educational opportunities for visitors and decreasing our resident rabbits’ length of stay. After months of planning and construction, we believe we have met each of these goals and are eagerly awaiting the day our rabbits move in and we can welcome guests.

The new rabbit space will be located in one of our large animal rooms located near the dog adoption floor. This location, compared to the current rabbit space, allows all the rabbits to be housed inside the room where it is quieter and separated from the other activities of the shelter.

Extensive research into other rabbit facilities around the country and consulting best practices showed that rabbits thrive in large open areas, compared to traditional cages. These spaces are similar to what you would see in a home, that would allow the rabbits to have additional room to move and play, include separate areas for eating, eliminating and resting, all while creating opportunities for enrichment and species-specific behaviors.

In keeping with the Animal Friends tradition of “thinking outside the cage,” we are excited to be creating eight, progressive, custom-built rabbit enclosures. These new enclosures will double the size of our rabbits’ current housing with multiple layers of usable space, built-in enrichment activities and opportunities for the rabbits to make daily choices, which is critical to their mental health.

A specially designed rabbit enrichment area will also be located in the room for staff and volunteers to participate with the rabbits daily. This space can be converted into a meet and greet space for our adoption team to utilize as well.

Various educational materials will be available in the space for visitors to read and take home. This will include updated information about our current residents, both on-site and in foster homes, upcoming opportunities to meet and interact with the adoptable rabbits, how to care for rabbits in the home, and ways in which Animal Friends is raising the bar in rabbit husbandry.

We cannot wait to welcome our guests into this new space. We know that it will benefit each rabbit who temporarily calls Animal Friends home, and our community as a whole.

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