Rabbit Haven hoping (or hopping?) you can help
Russell Wilson is calm and docile. His large ears pop upright atop his soft furry head as he stretches out casually in an oversized pen at Rabbit Haven, a non-profit rescue and shelter for rabbits in Gig Harbor’s Ray Nash Valley.
Russell and his pals at Rabbit Haven could use your help.
Since rabbits go through blankets pretty quick (they eat through the things), Rabbit Haven is holding a Blanket-A-Thon fundraiser from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 15. They are collecting fleece blankets, small rugs, and any sized sherpa material.
Rabbit Haven history
Russell Wilson is a Flemish giant, the largest rabbit breed in the world. A Rabbit Haven volunteer calls him “the ambassador bunny.”
Russell and other domestic rabbits lounge in what feels more like a luxe bunny condo than a rabbit farm barn. Rabbit motifs adorn the barn walls, a fully heated space lit up like a family home.
A kitchen in the back buzzes with activity. Volunteers chop carrots and other produce for delivery to the more than 50 rabbits who call the 11 1/2 acre wooded property home.
Gig Harbor resident Sue Brennan founded Rabbit Haven more than two decades ago “to help as many rabbits as we can.” It offers rabbits for adoption, fostering, sanctuary, and provides boarding and grooming.
It all started in 1986, when Brennan went “to the mall to get a VCR and came home with a baby rabbit.” She paid $5 for “Alice,” who Brennan later learned was a French lop and a he, not a she.
In the months to come, Brennan realized that little information or resources was available for rabbit owners. Few veterinarians offered bunny neutering services.
When she finally found a veterinarian to neuter Alice (renamed Al), the vet’s wife asked if she could foster a rabbit rescued from a lumber yard. Word got out. A year later, Brennan found herself caring for 23 bunnies.
Brennan’s skills as a general contractor proved to be useful as she expanded the rabbit pens to accommodate the steady influx of rescued rabbits. Today, the no-kill shelter offers not only appropriate housing and food for rabbits but also services and supplies, public education, boarding and hay. Rabbit Haven accepts strays and hardship rabbits, and provides housing and vet care for homeless rabbits.
In addition to the rabbit barn, Rabbit Haven has an enclosed outdoor space, a warren, for feral rabbits and bunnies who are less social and prefer to be outside.
The presence of pastures, two expansive ponds, a meandering creek, and five acres of woodland creates an idyllic setting reminiscent of a Beatrix Potter tale. However, this rendition has a more rural Pacific Northwest vibe compared to the traditional Peter Rabbit children’s story.
Brennan could pen a book filled with anecdotes chronicling the heartwarming, humorous, and often touching experiences as a rabbit rescuer.
She once found herself in possession of 52 hedgehogs.
On another occasion, police called asking her to come to a gas station where a furry suspect had been spotted in the men’s restroom. “There’s something in there and it’s running on the walls,” they told her. The trespasser was a tiny rabbit holding up behind the toilet while a confused chinchilla scurried across the walls above.
She has witnessed vans full of rabbits arriving from Canada in the middle of the night. She was once assigned the duty of taking care of a rabbit held as “evidence” in a police case. But before she arrived, the rabbit managed to flee the scene. Police called in Brennan to apprehend the evidence.
Over the years, Rabbit Haven has taken in hundreds of rabbits in major rescues across the U.S. and Canada. Brennan says Rabbit Haven is one of the largest privately run rabbit rescues in the United States.
Hazel and Timothy
The rabbit tales are also tender. The Humane Society asked Rabbit Haven to take in a rabbit whose elderly owner had been placed in a nursing home and was refusing food and medication out of concern for her relinquished rabbit. Brennan not only took in the elderly rabbit named “Timothy,” but managed to sneak him in a duffle bag to see the senior, Hazel, at her nursing home.
Coordinating with the nursing home, visits continued until the aging bunny died. Before the rabbit passed, Brennan took Timothy for one last visit so Hazel could say goodbye. “She thanked me for the time they had together. Timmy was 17 years, 7 months, and 3 days old. Hazel had his birth certificate in her Bible.”
Rabbit Haven’s future
Rabbit Haven recently completed a new treatment room to enable in-house rabbit medical care, thanks to donors and craftsman volunteers. The shelter is also looking to grow its foster program, which can help potential bunny owners learn if a rabbit is the right pet for them.
Rabbit Haven will also add more classes on subjects like rabbit grooming.
This spring they will kick off a new campaign, “Plant a Row for a Rabbit.” They will give away 5-pound buckets of rabbit compost, with larger sizes for sale at $10 a scoop or $30 a yard. Experts at Washington State University say that “Rabbit manure contains four times more nutrients than cow or horse manure, is twice as rich as chicken manure, and doesn’t need to be composted to use as fertilizer.”
Rabbit Haven hopes the community will share photos of their garden wonders, and consider donating the homegrown veggies to the bunnies at Rabbit Haven. Coolers will be placed on the barn porch to accept produce donations, should the facility be closed.
In August, Rabbit Haven will host the annual Country Hop, a silent and live auction to benefit the nonprofit. Donations and volunteers are needed.
Attending events gives the community a chance to meet the rabbits and learn more about the nonprofit.
“We do provide a community service,” Brennan said. “We’ve gone along quietly for a long time.” Following a near-fatal medical episode in February, Brennan has become even more dedicated to engaging with the community and sharing her knowledge and needs. “There is so much to do.”
Address: 6022 Ray Nash Dr NW, Gig Harbor, WA 98335
Contact: [email protected]
How to help: The nonprofit is in need of more volunteers to handle a variety of tasks: feeding, cleaning, grooming, vet runs and more. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old. Rabbit Haven also has an Amazon Wishlist.
Blanket-a-Thon: Rabbit Haven is holding a Blanket-A-Thon fundraiser from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 15. They are collecting fleece blankets, small rugs, and any sized sherpa material. (Rabbits eat through their blankets.)