All around town, pharmacies are packing up their Easter displays as kids gobble down their last chocolate rabbits. But there are some Easter bunnies that aren't so easy to get rid of: the real, live kind.
Animal shelters say it happens every year. Children who clamored for a cute, furry rabbit -- and the parents who reluctantly obliged them -- quickly become disenchanted after the holiday. Bunnies, it turns out, can be just as demanding as they are adorable.
Mary Cotter, founder of Rabbit Rescue & Rehab, says she'll likely get dozens of calls in the next few weeks. "Most parents just don't understand what they're getting themselves into," she says. "Rabbits are not toys. They can be a ten-year commitment." The problem has gotten so bad that the ASPCA will have its first Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month in July. Last Palm Sunday, Cotter and a group of smiley Upper East Side women -- all clad in pastel bunny ears -- gathered outside Petland Discounts on East 86th Street. "Please don't buy a bunny for Easter!" pleaded Cindy Stutts, a fashion designer who shares her Park Avenue apartment with her husband and six huge rabbits.
"I'm Jewish!" said a baffled bystander. "Oh, good!" Stutts sweetly replied. "Because rabbits aren't for everyone."
One visit to Stutts's home proves her point. The place is filled with bins of hay, litter boxes, and three-foot-tall fences to keep territorial twelve-pounders from pouncing. "Rabbits are the most adorable companions," she insists, "if you make them feel comfortable."
Comedian Amy Sedaris agrees: "I don't know why every New Yorker doesn't want a rabbit," she says as she cuddles Tattletail, a seven-year-old black dwarf rabbit who lives in her box-spring mattress. "They're quiet, they don't complain."
Sedaris, it must be said, hasn't given Tattletail much to complain about: She's installing wall-to-wall carpet (rabbits love to munch on rugs) and has covered all her cords in thick plastic. "I let her chew on my quilt and even hold it for her as she goes," says Sedaris.
Others aren't so accommodating. Cosimo Capitanio, a Petland manager, says that because so many fed-up families take bunnies to the ASPCA after the holiday, "we now require pre-Easter shoppers to buy a whole setup to demonstrate that they are serious." The package includes a tiny but pricey cage and a bag of rabbit treats (which may give some baby bunnies diarrhea).
But 7-year-old Justin Criollo still managed to convince his mom, Denise, to let him have a bunny last year. "Within a few weeks," says Denise, "Justin learned how expensive it was to spend his allowance on daily fresh vegetables." And the new pet, named Piccachu, was no Pat the Bunny -- style animal: Terrified of Justin and his two brothers, "she would bite us if we tried to touch her." Piccachu, says Denise, was finally sent away to a quieter, gentler family -- "for her own sake and for ours."