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Shelters swamped with bunches of bunnies

Animal shelters are struggling with overcrowding, but as Newswatch 16's Emily Kress tells us, it's not just dogs and cats filling up the cages.

LUZERNE COUNTY, Pa. — When you think of animal shelters, you think of dogs and cats, but there's another animal that's beginning to hop into the shelters.

"Dogs and cats people seem to prioritize, but there are just as many rabbits as any other animal," said Emma Ripka, a worker at Blue Chip Animal Refuge near Dallas.

Ripka says their phones ring daily with people looking to get rid of rabbits. The refuge has 30 rabbits in its "rabbitat" and in foster families.

"When the rabbit becomes too big or lives too long, or they don't want it anymore, they decide to dump it or rehome it to somebody else who doesn't know what to do either, and then they end up in a shelter or outside."

The cages at the Luzerne County SPCA are also filled with rabbits. Staff members say many of them are surrenders.

"We do have some in foster, so when they start fluctuating back in, and they get spayed and neutered, they will be up for adoption," said Amy Reakes, adoption supervisor at the Luzerne County SPCA.

For the month of August, the SPCA is running half-price adoptions on all animals to help clear the shelter, including rabbits for $25.

With all of these animals to take care of, the staff says it's overwhelming.

"We do have a lot of great volunteers that help clean, and we are always looking for more volunteers, so that's also an opportunity to spend time with the animals."

Blue Chip has so many rabbits it's unable to take in any more. Both rescue centers tell Newswatch 16 that it's up to people to be responsible pet owners to avoid overcrowding.

"A lot of people mistake rabbits for animals that can be in a cage," Ripka said. "They're cute to be around. They are fun, but they have no idea what actually goes into them. Rabbits specifically, they need space. They don't do well as singles, and they need to be spayed and neutered just like dogs and cats, and no one realizes that."

Blue Chip is looking to expand its "rabbitat" to accommodate the record-breaking number of the animals in its care.

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