Metairie clinic takes in abandoned, injured rabbits _lowres

Photo provided by West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic -- One of two rabbits lies bandaged with two broken legs after being thrown from a car in Lafreniere Park. The rabbits are being nursed at West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic.

Someone in a pickup passing Lafreniere Park in Metairie on Tuesday threw two young, pregnant rabbits bound at the legs out of the vehicle’s window.

A woman driving behind the truck stopped to check on the injured animals and called West Esplanade Veterinary Clinic, which took the rabbits in and put casts on three broken hind legs.

Clinic owner Gregory Rich said the cruelty of Tuesday’s incident was enough to make him resurrect an effort from two years ago to get the Jefferson Parish Council to institute fines for anyone abandoning animals at public parks.

“In my 28 years, this is the first time that I’ve had a case where someone saw rabbits thrown from a vehicle,” he said.

State and local laws already prohibit animal abandonment, but Rich said he’d like to see something that applies specifically to parks, which are often popular spots for people to abandon unwanted pets.

Rich’s practice specializes in exotic animals, and he said he takes in abandoned animals about four times a year, typically rabbits, ducks and ferrets but also chinchillas and exotic birds. He said the people who bring them in often say the animals walked right up to them and were clearly domesticated.

He said some of the owners of these animals incorrectly think they’re choosing the lesser of two evils by dropping them off at parks instead of taking them to animal shelters.

Rich said local shelters and the Louisiana SPCA excel at finding homes for exotic pets, and that taking such animals to shelters is the responsible choice.

Domesticated animals left at parks can fall prey to predators such as dogs, feral cats and hawks because they don’t know how to survive in the wild, he said.

Jefferson Parish officials released a letter to Rich from President John Young, saying the parish’s Animal Control Office had investigated the case and couldn’t identify the perpetrator. It said the parish pursues all cases of animal abandonment, which are punishable by a $500 fine, but it gave no indication whether Young would favor an additional penalty in the case of animals abandoned in public parks.

Reports of animals abandoned in parks are not uncommon, and the fact these rabbits were discarded shortly after Easter is perhaps not a coincidence.

The problem is not confined to parks. A stretch of Live Oak Boulevard in Waggaman is a popular dumping spot for dogs, some of them found hog-tied, according to news reports.

The Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter told WWL-TV this spring that 15 of the dogs it picked up in that area, including pit bulls, were later placed in homes, echoing Rich’s point that euthanasia is typically not the fate of animals dropped off responsibly.

“They think, ‘If I bring my pet to the animal shelter, they’re going to put it to sleep,’ and that is so far from the truth,” Rich said.

As for the rabbits at the West Esplanade clinic, Rich said he has been in contact with June Booth of the House Rabbit Society, which will place the rabbits and their offspring in homes after they’ve healed.

He said the woman who called his clinic could not provide any information about the truck from which the rabbits were thrown because her attention was focused on the animals in peril.