Bunnies are #NotJust4Easter. That's the message Space Coast Animals Rights hopes resonates with those who plan to purchase rabbits or baby chicks to fill gift baskets for the holiday.
In partnership with LUSH cosmetics, the group has launched a nationwide campaign to make sure people think twice before they seal the deal on a new furry (or feathery) friend. Rabbits and chickens are a lot of work, long after the Easter holiday, said Alycia Corpiel, founder and president of SCAR, and people need to realize it's a commitment.
This is the third year the campaign has been in place, but the first year a major sponsor has jumped on board. LUSH has given SCAR a $7,800 grant to spread the word about animal cruelty inflicted around the Easter holiday.
It's primarily a social media campaign but the group also hosts protests outside stores that sell rabbits and chicks. The next and final protest is scheduled for April 15 from from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in front of Incredible Pets on Wickham Road. A protest outside Pet Supermarket took place in March.
SCAR is also lending out signs that say "#NotJust4Easter" for residents to post in their yard and the group leaflets at various events. The social media campaign hashtag has now become a nationwide conversation. Additionally, T-shirts are being sold for $22 each, and 10 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Tampa Bay House Rabbit Rescue.
"A lot of people don't realize how much work these animals take," said Alycia Corpiel, president and founder of SCAR. "They look at rabbits like they’re a hamster. Rabbits will live 10 to 12 years, sometimes more. They need to be neutered. They can’t live in a cage, they need to be running around. They have a specific diet and they can die really easily if fed the wrong food."
Chickens live, on average, about eight years, but there are reports of chickens living as long as 20 years, according to mypetchicken.com.
These animals end up either being abused, abandoned or even dying, said Corpiel, who was once a volunteer with the Gainesville Rabbit Rescue Orlando chapter. Once the thrill is gone, children lose interest and parents aren't aware of the animal's proper care, she added.
"I saw so many rabbits come in to the rescue after Easter and so many were battered or just let loose in the wild and they can't survive in the wild because they are domesticated," said Corpiel. "It was just really depressing."
Thousands of Easter bunnies turn up in shelters after Easter, according to ASPCA. Locally, the SPCA of Brevard does see bunnies dropped off at adoption sites, but it happens sporadically throughout the year, said spokeswoman Susan Naylor.
"We don’t get a lot of them, but we get them," said Naylor.
However, the SPCA supports the campaign and urges people to stray away from buying bunnies or chicks to fill Easter baskets.
"The message they are putting out is a good message," said Naylor. "It’s not a good idea to buy bunnies or baby chickens for your kids for Easter because they lose interest."
Contact Saggio at 321-242-3664, JSaggio@FloridaToday.com or follow @JessicaJSaggio on Twitter. Instagram: JessicaJSaggio Snapchat: JuhJuhJuh