The Prince William County Animal Shelter is looking for the owner of 15 domestic rabbits that were left to fend for themselves on a vacated property in Manassas this week, officials said.
All are adult, large-breed bunnies weighing between 8 and 12 pounds. They appear to be in relatively good health, so someone had been caring for the rabbits until recently. But who?
That’s the mystery the Prince William County animal shelter has been trying to unravel since the new owner of a Manassas property in the 7400 block of Centreville Road called after discovering the rabbits in an outdoor structure, said Anthony Cleveland, chief of Prince William County Police Department’s Animal Control Bureau Division.
Most of the rabbits were housed individually, but some were doubled-housed. Animal control officers transported them to the county’s new animal shelter, said shelter manager Suzette Kapp.
The newly built shelter is nearly complete and has been housing the county’s stray and unwanted animals in its western wing since it partially opened in November 2021. The new shelter is more than 27,000 square feet – about four times the size of the old shelter, built in 1975 – and will accommodate as many as 106 cats and 56 dogs when complete.
Taking in so many rabbits at once “is an unusual occurrence, certainly,” Cleveland said.
But the rabbits are comfortable in the new shelter’s “flex room,” which was designed to house cats but can also “accommodate various types of smaller furry species, such as rabbits and guinea pigs,” Cleveland said.
All of the rabbits have been classified as strays at this time, and shelter staff posted pictures of them on their Facebook page on Thursday, March 17, in an effort to locate their owner. Per county guidelines, the shelter will hold the rabbits for 10 days while they wait for the owner to claim them, Cleveland said.
The 15 bunnies are the largest single acquisition of rabbits the shelter has had at one time in at least 10 years, Kapp said.
County statistics show that 14 rabbits have been adopted from the animal shelter since Jan. 1. In 2021, 97 rabbits were adopted from the shelter, and three more were transferred to a rabbit rescue.
During their intake inspection, it was determined the group of 15 bunnies includes three or four male rabbits with the remaining being female. The male rabbits have not been neutered, and it is unknown so far if any of the females are pregnant.
If the rabbits are not claimed by their owner when the 10 days are up, they will be evaluated by a veterinarian before being put up for adoption. The shelter may have to reach out to rabbit rescue groups or even neighboring animal shelters for help in finding loving and appropriate adoptive homes for the rabbits, Kapp said.
Domestic rabbits are very social animals and require extensive care and a long-term commitment because they live eight to 10 years, on average. Pet bunnies need regular mental stimulation, daily physical exercise and a healthy, varied diet of hay, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a small portion of rabbit pellets, Kapp said.
The shelter recommends that bunnies be cared for as “inside family pets.” They are easily litter-box trained with up to 95% accuracy. Rabbits get bored easily, so owners are urged to “bunny proof” their homes to prevent damage. The shelter also encourages new owners to consider adopting bunnies in pairs or groups to keep them stimulated, Kapp said.
Cleveland said the animal control bureau doesn’t have all the information about what occurred with these bunnies but hopes their owner comes forward soon. So far, no criminal charges are being pursued in connection with the bunnies, he said.
“We don’t have a lot to go on right now as to who the owner is,” Cleveland said, adding: “It is always the goal of the animal control bureau to reunite pets with their owners.”