Sunday, April 16, 2006

Animal School

I've always been baffled by parents who buy animals as Easter gifts for their children. In New York City, many of these would-be pets end up being abandoned on the campus of an elite private school in Brooklyn:
On any given spring day, ducks, sea gulls and French geese, along with migratory birds and even a few chickens can be seen frolicking around the ponds and rolling hills at the Poly Prep Country Day School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

But weeks after Easter, the wildlife population there swells to unruly numbers as the 25-acre grassy knoll turns into a dumping ground for abandoned roosters, chicks, rabbits and ducks.

Most of the adorable critters are purchased as Easter gifts from pet stores and local poultry markets, but are cast aside weeks or months later after the owners tire of them.

"People think they're doing the right thing by leaving them here - but they're not," said Steve Anderson, associate head of the private grade school.

The chance to gander at wildlife in the midst of urban sprawl is a spectacular treat for most onlookers. Still, the abandoned visitors become unmanageable for the school, and worse, the defenseless animals create havoc.

"The male ducks start fighting and injure and even kill each other," said Anderson. The male chicks, which mature into roosters, begin to crow loudly, he said, and the throngs of bunny rabbits, which quickly multiply, are defenseless against raccoons and other wild predators.

Tragically, many of the bunnies and chickens are killed by traffic after they wander away from the expansive green campus, which is nestled between Dyker Heights Golf Course and Fort Hamilton, on the corner of Seventh Ave. and 92nd St.

"It's really unfair to the animals," Anderson added, cautioning that feeding them only makes matters worse.

Stale bread and bagels thrown over the fence encourage the creatures to stick around, which in the long run, can be unhealthy for them.

Brooklyn-based animal rescuer Sean Casey has taken several injured ducks from the property and has rescued hundreds of bunnies, chicks and roosters that are abandoned in the city's parks and lots by owners after Easter.

"People should not buy rabbits or chickens from pet stores," said Casey, who has dozens of available rabbits, along with many reptiles, rodents, cats and dogs for adoption at

Instead, adopt from a local rescue group. A search on found literally thousands of bunnies available for adoption, ranging from lop-eared and Flemish giant to dwarf and New Zealand rabbits. If not adopted, many will be euthanized at local shelters.

The House Rabbit Society ( a nonprofit rescue group, warns that education before getting a rabbit is key. The cute furry critters, which live about 10 years, require as much work as a cat or dog and should live indoors with the family. And they like to chew on wire and furniture.

Contrary to Easter-time hype, rabbits and small children are not a good match. Because rabbits don't like to be cuddled and get frightened when restrained, children often lose interest and hence, the rabbit ends up being abandoned.

Rabbits that aren't spayed or neutered will mark your house with feces and urine. And they will multiply like, well, bunnies.

In fact, in Reno, Nev., a massive rescue effort to save 1,000 bunnies recently got underway after a woman who thought she was rescuing a few dozen homeless rabbits saw her efforts quickly spin out control when the animals began reproducing. Best Friends Animal Society President Michael Mountain said it's the largest animal rescue effort since hurricane Katrina.
I wish that these parents would use a little common-sense stop buying farm animals that do not adapt easily to life in the city.

Both the kids and the animals deserve better.
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