ABU DHABI // Dyeing eggs bright colours is a fun, long-held Easter tradition. However, the most recent trend has gone a hop, skip and a jump too far, according to worried animal activists.
If you go down to the Sharjah Bird and Animal Market, you will see the latest Easter marketing strategy – dyeing bunny rabbits bright pinks, blues and yellows.
Dr Piotr Jaworski, from the Advanced Pet Care Clinic in Al Wasl Road, Dubai, witnessed the discoloured animals at the market and described it as a “cruel gimmick” ahead of the holiday, which falls on March 27 this year.
“It is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “The bunnies were dyed with paint by submerging them in a bucket full of paint.
“Apart from that, all three of them had scabies around the eyes, ears and in between the fingers and toes of all four paws.
“In my opinion the process and existence of this dye on their bodies is detrimental to their health.”
Volunteers with the Middle East Animal Foundation (MEAF) said the move was a marketing ploy to encourage the pets to be given as Easter gifts and have raised concern about what happens when the colourful tint disappears and the rabbit’s novelty wears off.
“We always try to discourage people from giving animals as presents,” said Debbie Lawson, a volunteer with the MEAF.
“An animal should be taken on only if the caregiver is able to provide a home for the rest of its natural life and if they are physically and financially able to provide the right environment, care and veterinary treatment that may be needed throughout its life.
“Anyone who takes on a pet should be responsible for educating themselves as to the particular requirements of that animal.”
Rabbits, she said, are not toys.
“They are living creatures and should never, ever be given as gifts,” she said.
“If you are thinking of getting a rabbit, please adopt. There are so many that are abandoned and unwanted and the pet shop will not take them back, of course.”
Ms Lawson said the Easter holiday would only further a recent increase in dumped rabbits.
She highlighted the recent case of how traps had to be set to catch a warren of rabbits burrowing into the landscaped gardens in a villa community in Palm Jumeirah, Dubai after complaints from residents.
These rabbits were likely to have been abandoned and the problem was emerging in several Dubai communities, she said.
“I believe the problem is because of escaped rabbits from the pet trade,” she said.
“It is because the trend over the past year has gone from hamsters to pet rabbits.
“This recent trend of pet rabbits has resulted in many being abandoned once the shine has worn off the gift and [owners] are bored with it.
“The only people who benefit are the breeders and traders – as usual.”
Neutering female rabbits was also “horrendously expensive and super complicated”, making anti-breeding measures used for other animals, such as trap, neuter and release programmes, unworkable, Ms Lawson said.
Daniella C, the founder of a small animal collective, Helping Hands for Small Paws, condemned the colouring of the animals.
“This photo shows a number of horrors, not just the colouring, which may be toxic, but babies removed too young from their mothers who are still lactating and now probably suffering dehydration, a wire bottom on cage where toes can get broken, even with the cloth, exposure to the weather, and an incorrect diet that will probably cause the gut microbes to overreact and sepsis throughout the bunny.”
She said animal welfare workers would be expecting the usual post-Easter dump of small animals, such as chicks and rabbits, as early as the week after Easter.
“Rabbits given as gifts usually don’t work well, especially when given to children who get bored within weeks or when the bunny scratches or bites when handled poorly,” she said. “Many just won’t make it past those first weeks and will die from disease.
“People quickly discover rabbits are not the easy-care pets stores sell them as. They require just as much work as cats or dogs.”