Algonquin rabbit rescue/adoption center brings people and bunnies together
By Melanie Kalmar For Sun-Times Media November 22, 2013 1:44PM
Ashley Brooks, left, and Lisa Reemer of No Splitting Hares Rabbit Rescue, Inc., in Algonquin rescue bunnies and prepare them for adoption. | Melanie Kalmar for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 26, 2013 6:08AM
ALGONQUIN — Down a long, country road, and up a short, gravel driveway, is an old, white farmhouse. Beside the front door hangs a sculpture of a bunny, lounging in a hammock. In a subtle way, it shows visitors that the house is occupied by rabbits.
Volunteers of all ages regularly visit No Splitting Hares Rabbit Rescue, Inc., at 2192 Cary Road to help care for the abandoned bunnies inside, and prepare the fluffy animals for adoption.
Some of the regular volunteers, according to Lisa Reemer, founder of No Splitting Hares, include a couple of senior citizens who hold the bunnies, because rabbits like to cuddle; a retired high school chemistry teacher who collects free lettuce from grocery stores and spends hours feeding it to all of the animals; and a man on dialysis who donates the cardboard boxes from his medicine to be used as “bunny carriers.”
The boxes provide a confined space that prevents the bunnies from sliding around during the drive home.
The bunnies are domestic pets, not wildlife, Reemer said. These rabbits live indoors and are litter box trained, much like cats.
“When bunnies are well supervised, they can be a lot of fun,” said Reemer’s assistant, Ashley Brooks. “They run and click their heels when they’re excited and chatter their teeth when they’re happy.”
The bunnies are kept in a holding area upstairs, until they are ready for adoption, which, according to Reemer, means, “Vet checked, maintaining their weight, and not aggressive.”
It could take weeks or months, she said. It depends on the bunny.
Plenty of bunnies
Reemer carefully screens prospective owners by requiring them to complete an application.
“If a customer says, I want a boy and a girl, and I’m going to breed, we say no,” she said. “There are plenty of bunnies to take care of in here.”
She also makes sure they understand rabbits before they take one home.
Taking care of a bunny involves changing its litter box daily, cleaning its cage, filling its water bottle, feeding it, and grooming it, Reemer said. Bunnies eat apples, bananas, hay, lettuce, pears, rabbit feed and raisins. By the time a bunny is adopted, Reemer said, “it has eaten its weight in food.”
She spends $800 a month feeding the 150 to 200 rabbits she houses at any given time. Open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by appointment during the week, No Splitting Hares usually adopts out from eight to 12 bunnies each week.
In its four and a half years of operation, the organization has placed more than 1,500 bunnies in homes.
Reemer obtains the rabbits from area animal control officers, animal hospitals, police departments and owners who surrender their pets, because they face eviction.
A single mother of five children, Reemer was running a Department of Children and Family Services-licensed group home for foster kids at her house when she witnessed what she says was the miracle that influenced her to establish No Splitting Hares.
An 18-month-old baby, now her adopted daughter, was participating in a physical therapy session when Reemer let out the family bunny for some exercise. The doctors who diagnosed the infant with failure to thrive, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, cocaine exposure, and Attention Deficit Disorder, doubted she would ever walk or talk.
The minute Reemer’s bunny was loose, the baby proved them wrong. She began reaching for the animal and expressing herself, Reemer said. From then on, the bunny was incorporated into her therapy routine, and Reemer became a proponent of animal-assisted therapy.
She rents the farmhouse headquarters of No Splitting Hares from her grandmother and keeps the not-for-profit organization afloat by bartering services, and selling bunny supplies and crafts.
Adopting a bunny costs from $35 to $50 and includes a lifetime of toenail clipping at No Splitting Hares. Reemer asks that in exchange for the service, customers donate new or used supplies for the bunnies or the house. A list of much-needed items can be found on her web site, www.nosplittinghares.com.
A recent donation of $5,000 paid for the organization’s pick-up truck, she said.
With so many bunnies to choose from, prospective owners need not fret about adopting the right one, Reemer said. “The animal picks the person.”