Richmond nonprofit serves as worldwide resource on house rabbits

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House Rabbit Society Richmond California 1

By Mike Kinney

In Richmond, bunnies are a hot topic year round, not just during the Easter holiday. For years, the city has been home to the House Rabbit Society, an international, volunteer-based nonprofit that rescues rabbits, finds permanent homes for them, educates the public on their plight and assists humane societies.

Last year alone, the organization located at 148 Broadway spayed/neutered close to 300 rabbits, helping with the overcrowding crisis at shelters and vaccinating over 700 rabbits against the deadly RHDV2 through low-cost clinics.

The House Rabbit Society’s pet pantry helped 71 new and returning households in 2023, providing care for 312 rabbits.

“We’ve distributed an estimated 2,790 pounds of hay, 2,100 pounds of rabbit food pellets, and 2,835 pounds of litter,” said Executive Director Beth Woolbright, a founding and current board member.

The House Rabbit Society facility in Richmond serves as a model shelter for other rabbit rescues around the world. The organization has seven chapters in the U.S. and three internationally, all serving to provide education on caring for rabbits worldwide.

Woolbright notes that rabbits are wonderful pets, but they are not necessarily the pet for everyone. The organization promotes house rabbits because “it’s far safer and more interesting for the rabbit to live indoors.” It also strives to help people find out if they should live with rabbits.

The organization additionally works with rabbit veterinarians to improve medical care, and advocates that rabbits be included in laws that impact cats and dogs. For example, the House Rabbit Society was part of the effort to pass the California law in 2019 to ban the sale of commercially-bred dogs, cats and rabbits.

The book that launched a global movement

The House Rabbit Society was founded in Alameda in 1988, two years after the release of the book, House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit. The book’s author, Marinell Harriman, had adopted rabbits and noticed there was a dearth of information on the topic. Her book sparked a global movement for rabbit rescue and care.

Harriman helped found the House Rabbit Society in the wake of her book’s success. People who bought her book were contacted about the organization and many stepped up to help with fostering and volunteering.

“Within a few years House Rabbit Society was a rescue and education nonprofit with an international impact,” Woolbright said.

The adoption facility on Broadway in Richmond houses about 40 rabbits onsite on average, with another 20 to 40 rabbits in foster care around the Bay Area.

“Fostering allows a person or family to provide a temporary home to one or more rabbits,” Woolbright said. “It enables HRS to rescue additional bunnies at risk at shelters and lets people find out if that is the right rabbit for them or lets them have a temporary companion animal when circumstances (like travel) may prevent them from providing a forever home to a pet.”

House Rabbit Society is funded primarily by donations and some grants. Membership in the society starts at $20 and includes perks such as the House Rabbit Journal, an annual color magazine.

How you can help rabbits

There are many ways in which people can help local rabbits.

“We’d love for more people in the Richmond area to consider adopting a rabbit as their indoor companion,” Woolbright said.

Volunteers are also sought at the Richmond facility, which consists of the vital spay/neuter clinic and Essential Petfood Pantry. Financial support is always welcome to sustain and expand resources for the public.

House rabbits are much more intelligent, social, clever, and interactive than most people expect.

“They play with toys and can live to be over 12 years old,” Woolbright said. “Rabbits also get along well with most cats and some dogs. While not a child’s pet, rabbits are a good pet for a family that is rabbit ready.  Remember, research is important before bringing home a rabbit.”

To learn more about the House Rabbit Society, visit its website here. The Hop Shop, a one stop shop for rabbit essentials, along with Main Room, are open for visitation Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  All adoptions and boarding pickups and drop offs are done by appointment only.