(WDVM/WFXR) — Easter isn’t just about carrots and candy, especially not for the bunnies who may have just been bought for the holiday gift basket.

Before Peter Rabbit comes hopping down the Bunny Trail, animal shelters and rescue organizations in both Maryland and Virginia want to make sure people know that rabbit is more than a cute holiday prop and you need to give a lot of thought to the idea of giving a bunny a forever home.

Dani Whalley, an employee at the Humane Society of Washington County (HSWC) in Maryland, adopted her Mini Rex rabbit, Cronos, in January after his owners surrendered him to the shelter. Whalley says that, to her knowledge, Cronos was not a “holiday gift” and the owners were unable to continue caring for him.

“They are long-term commitments, they’re not just this cute thing to look at and it’ll be fun for a few weeks while it’s small and cute,” Whalley explained. “They need special diets. They need special vet care. They can be easily stressed out.”

While the HSWC does not see an increase of surrendered bunnies after the Easter holiday, rabbits are the third most common animal brought to shelters, according to PETA.

Down in Southside Virginia, the Martinsville Henry County SPCA reminds parents that, despite the temptation to bring a cute, fuzzy bunny home on Easter morning, not all children do well with rabbits.

“Children are naturally loving, but holding, cuddling, and carrying a rabbit can frighten the bunny, causing them to scratch and bite. Many rabbits are accidently dropped resulting in broken legs and backs, the Martinsville Henry County SPCA wrote on Facebook ahead of the spring holiday. “Rabbits can be delightful house rabbits who use a litter box and entertain as they play with toys. They can coexist with other pets if introduced correctly. The key to a happy bunny is preparing and educating the family prior to the decision to bring one in to your family.”

Meanwhile, Noel Cordell, the development and communications manager of the HSWC, says that rabbits aren’t low-maintenance pets, like many people assume.

(Photo courtesy: Radford Animal Shelter Facebook)

“They require a balanced diet with a lot of greens. Carrots are actually not something they should have very often,” Cordell explained. “Bunnies can actually live up to 15 years with proper care.”

According to the Martinsville Henry County SPCA, rabbits are very social animals that often need daily care.

While shelters emphasize that there’s no shame in re-homing your bunny, it’s best to figure out ahead of time whether this fluffy critter is right for you.

“We just want to caution people that adopting a bunny is actually a lifelong commitment. It’s not just a cute furry little animal to put in an Easter basket,” Cordell said. “We never want people to feel shame for surrendering an animal to the shelter because the shelter can then find a good home that is equipped to care for that animal.”

All of these animal shelters encourage families to do some research before bringing a bunny home and to reach out if you have questions about your long-eared friend or how to best care for it.

The Radford Animal Shelter in the New River Valley says the same kind of planning and preparation for bunnies also applies to other Easter pets, like ducks and chickens.

Every year countless ducks, chickens, rabbits, etc are bought as a cute Easter present. Then they grow up and become more care and money than people think they will be. Most are just dumped because they are deemed too much of a hassle. Sometimes we get to them in time, but we don’t always. Theses animals are not bred to be in the wild, they do not know how to fend for themselves or protect themselves against predators. Rabbits, Chickens, Ducks, etc are all long term commitments. Yes they are cute and fluffy and fun! But they take a lot of work, they have special husbandry needs, special food needs, large enclosures and more! They need yearly veterinary care, just like cats and dogs, but only certain vets are trained to care for them! If you want to get an exotic pet (ie anything other than a dog or cat) please do serious research into all aspects before getting one.

Facebook post on April 14, 2022 by the Radford Animal Shelter.