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Hopping for a second chance
Life just got fluffier for Ralph and Caryl Turner.
On April 20, the co-founders of Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in Sequim, brought home 51 rescued rabbits from the Pacific National Exhibition Fairgrounds in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The popular, pointy-eared creatures were the last part of a rescue effort from the University of Victoria in which 850 abandoned pet bunnies and their offspring were shared among rescue groups in Washington, Texas and Vancouver Island.
“I’m glad they are getting a second chance,” Turner said. “They are innocent. It was really people’s fault for what happened to them.”
“They live little lives just like ours,” Caryl Turner said. “They have personalities and feelings just like us.”
The Sequim habitat brings the rabbits to their 0.5-acre predator-proof shelter with a netted ceiling, 6 feet of cyclone fencing and 2 feet of concrete underground.
Canadian news outlets report the University of Victoria is rabbit-free now but staff will trap and kill any new rabbits found. Rabbit advocates so far have not swayed the university to continue transferring any rabbits to sanctuaries.
Turner said he is separating the rabbits from the existing 100 rabbits rescued in January 2008 from overpopulated Seattle parks. He and volunteers built new shelters and a fence in the structure. He wants to make sure the new rabbits are clear of diseases. All rabbits are spayed or neutered.
“When people visit they can’t believe how long these rabbits live,” Turner said. “These are well cared for and we’ve only lost a few since bringing them over from Seattle. Tame ones can live eight to 10 years. Their biggest demise is predators, which won’t happen here.”
The couple takes on the expense of all the rabbits’ veterinary care, which they are doing five at a time. Their food bill goes up $40-50 a week, too, for two bags of feed.
The Turners say the bunny exchange is timely with the Easter season.
“(Rabbits) are the most beloved pet animal for kids,” Turner said. “You see displays everywhere with bunnies. It’s really adored in our culture but people don’t realize that it requires a lot of care like any companion animal.”
They’ve received calls to take unwanted rabbits since a story ran in January about them and the bunnies.
“This is not the place for them,” Turner said. “Rabbits aren’t starter kits. They are just like other animals. People need to take responsibility for their animals.”
The Turners have been in negotiations to take the rabbits since last fall but the winter slowed down progress on the extended shelter. Canadian advocates have been soliciting money for the Turners to buy an ATV, too, so they can transport feed and water more easily to the rabbit area because it’s the steepest and hardest to reach.
The change in scenery for the rabbits will be a tough, Turner said: “In Victoria they were closer to sea level, so it’s going to be colder and hotter for them here. It’s important we get more shelters up soon.”
“Again, this is the most natural environment they can have,” Caryl Turner said.
The Turners feel good that the rabbits made it to Sequim.
“We’ll feel better when we find out they are all clear and checked out of worms,” Caryl Turner said.
Once they are proved to be clean, the rabbits will be integrated into the main population.
One of their most consistent volunteers, Brandino Gibson, said he was drawn to the sanctuary because the Turners love animals and are willing to give second chances.
He comes up twice a week to feed animals and work on projects while incorporating it into his workout routine because some of the work is so rigorous.
The Turners plan to continue with the sanctuary indefinitely but said one of their biggest struggles is finding volunteers and recruiting donations.
For more information on the Precious Life Animal Sanctuary, contact the Turners at info@preciouslife animalsanctuary.org, call 582-1437 or visit www.preciouslifeanimalsanctuary.org.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.