Thinking of buying a baby duck or rabbit for Easter? Think again, animal advocates say – Press Enterprise

The Easter season is often associated with baby animals, from cute yellow ducklings to fluffy bunnies. And some families are adding these cuddly critters to their kids’ Easter baskets.

But Southern California duck and rabbit rescue centers have a message for them — don’t do it.

They’re warning people not to fall for the yellow feathers or little cottontails and make these critters their new pets. Soon after spring ends, the newborns’ cuteness wears off and the reality of caring for a live animal sinks in.

“People see the Easter Bunny, cute baby ducklings and chicks, and suddenly they want their own,” said Lauren Blunk, an exotic veterinary technician at Care Animal Hospital in Temecula. “It’s usually a spontaneous decision, and sometimes they can’t afford the care that’s needed.”

Each year around this time, rescue centers and sanctuaries are overwhelmed with domestic birds and rabbits — many with health issues — that were abandoned in the wild or surrendered by the former owners. It’s a year-round problem that worsens in spring when the babies are born or hatched and breeders are selling, rescue founders said.

They’re encouraging people not to buy ducklings, bunnies, chicks, or any baby animals if they can’t properly care for them.

“They’re babies for a couple of months, and then they grow up,” said Howard Berkowitz, who runs from his home The Duck Pond of Lake Elsinore, one of a few domestic duck sanctuaries in the Southern California region. “People think (ducks) stay these cute, little yellow things forever. They don’t expect them to grow so fast.”

Breeders and feed companies said they offer tips on the animals’ care and encourage buyers to do research, so customers know what they’re getting into before it’s too late. But those who run rescues and sanctuaries said more awareness is needed.

Berkowitz said 90% of domestic duck purchases are impulsive, from families wanting to buy one or two for their kids. They often come from feed stores such as Tractor Supply Co. or Kahoots, which often promotes the sales.

“They want people to walk in like, ‘Oh my God, look how cute that baby duck is! It’s only 5 bucks!”

But ducks take up space at home, children grow older and life gets in the way.

Sooner or later, families no longer want to care for the “messy, quacking, sometimes high-maintenance” ducks, Berkowitz said. He’s cared for injured ducks left in tiny apartments, and has too often found them abandoned near bodies of water — such as the Temecula Duck Pond — with mallards and other wildlife.

But a domestic duck — which typically lives up to 10 years — is not accustomed to living in the wild, where they are prone to starvation and predators, Berkowitz said.

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