Abu Dhabi hotel cancels plan to give away live rabbits as raffle prizes

Pearl Rotana Capital Centre said the prize draw at Friday brunch would not go ahead after complaints from an animal rescue group

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, AUGUST 12, 2014. A prolific rabbit population has sprung up along Al Sufouh road across from the Cordoba Residences in Knowledge Village. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: None. Section: National.
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An Abu Dhabi hotel has cancelled a raffle to give away live rabbits as prizes on Friday, after objections from an animal rescue group.

Dino's Bistro Italiano, in Pearl Rotana Capital Centre, had planned to display a rabbit hutch with three bunnies during its Easter Brunch.

Children were to be allowed to handle the rabbits, animals traditionally associated with Easter. The rabbits would be raffled off to guests attending the event.

But an animal rescue group got in touch to complain, saying it objected to a rabbit being "a toy to be given away”.

We greatly support everyone's feedback and apologise as this was not intended at all to be disrespectful

"I rang the hotel and asked to speak to the food and beverage manager," said Tracey Hughes, who runs Rescue of Abu Dhabi .

“They very kindly called me back and explained their reasoning behind it.

"She said they thought it was a nice idea. They said they  had three rabbits theywere potentially going to give to good families.

"I said: 'How do you know they are good families and they are not going to dump them in a week or two? Or they're not going to be allergic?'"

A  Rotana spokeswoman said it was not the hotel’s intention to offend.

"We greatly support everyone's feedback and apologise, as this was not intended at all to be disrespectful in any way." Amal Harb, corporate vice president, told The National.

"It was simply just to have kids experience the living bunnies while visiting Pearl Rotana for Easter Brunch."

She said the hotel has discussed the possibility of working with the rescue group to raise awareness and encourage the community to learn more about responsible pet ownership.

Ms Hughes said there is a surge in sales of pet rabbits around Easter, followed by large numbers being dumped in the weeks afterwards, as some families tire of their new pet.

“They have to understand that small bunnies grow into big bunnies. They are very destructive,” she said.

“And they can live 10 years plus, if they are well looked after. They are the same commitment as a cat and a dog.”

But few people are aware of the hard work involved in looking after them, so dump them when they lose interest.

“I went to one of the pet shops yesterday, down at Mina, and there must have been 40 bunny rabbits, all babies. Literally, the size of your hand.

“And you know, that’s why they are there. They are there for Easter. Two, three or four weeks down the line they are going to be on the streets," Ms Hughes said.

She said there are already many bunnies popping up around the Corniche and in Abu Dhabi city.

Kate Lindley, a manager at Paw Pals animal rescue centre in Dubai, said it sees the same predictable surge in requests to adopt rabbits.

"We are seeing an increasing amount of rabbits for adoption, as people do not think through their decisions,” she said.

"Any family needs to carefully consider the needs of any animal that they consider getting.

"Rabbits have very special needs and are quite delicate, they also can live up to 12 years, so they are a long term commitment.”

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