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Long Beach City College combats rabbit overpopulation on campus with humane measures

April 1, 2010 |  8:30 pm

RabbitsLong Beach City College's Liberal Arts campus has long been a breeding ground -- quite literally -- for rabbits, many of which were abandoned by their owners, who decided they didn't want, or couldn't care for, the rabbits anymore.

At last count, more than 300 rabbits roamed the campus -- and that was several months ago. (The phrase "multiplying like rabbits" became a cliché for a reason, after all, so it's safe to guess that new babies have been born since the tally was completed.) So college staff are cracking down -- in a humane way, we hasten to add.

Their approach to dealing with the burgeoning bunny population is twofold: Trap and neuter the existing rabbits while warning would-be rabbit abandoners against the idea, and punishing anyone who drops off a rabbit despite the warnings.

The rabbits' arrival on campus, back in the 1980s, was innocent enough. A few jackrabbits are believed to have wandered onto the premises from the Long Beach Airport, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. From there, things took a turn for the worse when owners started dropping their unwanted pets on campus.

Now, of course, the population has gotten out of control. It's a dangerous situation for students and staff -- it would be all too easy to break a leg or twist an ankle after accidentally stepping in a rabbit hole -- and the little guys are a landscaper's nightmare. But the campus is also a dangerous place to be a rabbit, according to Jacque Olson, who works at the college and has cared for the feral bunnies for more than 10 years. "They can be attacked by predators, or attacked by other rabbits. They have colonies and are very territorial," Olson told the Press-Telegram.

So she and other volunteers have begun capturing the rogue rabbits. Once a rabbit is caught, it's spayed or neutered by a veterinarian from Western University of Health Sciences; volunteers care for the post-op animals and are working with local rabbit rescuers to address other medical concerns (some show signs of disease, others are infested with fleas and mites, according to rescue group the Bunny Bunch) and place the adoptable animals in new homes.

"These rabbits are not wild rabbits -- they are pet rabbits who have been abandoned," Dr. Diane McClure, an associate professor of veterinary medicine at Western University of Health Sciences, said in a statement. "These bunnies are so happy and relaxed to be in a sheltered environment with adequate food and water. They deserve to have a forever home."

Signs, like the one shown above, are being placed around the campus to warn owners against dropping off pet rabbits. Campus police officers will also begin enforcing an existing law that could mean a $500 fine and/or up to six months in jail for anyone caught abandoning an animal.

Many abandoned rabbits started out as Easter gifts; the L.A. Department of Animal Services announced recently that it's doing its part to prevent to prevent its adoptable rabbits from meeting the same fate. To prevent adopted rabbits from being given as Easter gifts, the six shelters operated by the agency will allow adopters to fill out the paperwork necessary to adopt a rabbit in the week leading up to Easter, but the animal won't be released to its new family until after the holiday is over.

For more on what Long Beach City College is doing to combat its bunny problem, or for more information on how to adopt one of the college's resident rabbits, visit The Times' local news blog, L.A. Now.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Image: New campus warning signs. Credit: Long Beach City College

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