Don't buy live baby chickens and bunnies for your Easter basket - rather buy the chocolate versions. That's the urgent please from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) who say that buying live Easter gifts is not cute, but cruel.
NSPCA spokesperson Kingstone Siziba said that they are hoping that their slogan "Make Mine Chocolate" will get the message across. "Fluffy chickens dyed all colors of the rainbow and pretty baby bunnies might sound appealing, but once Easter is over these poor creatures are cast aside or abandoned."
He said people failed to realize that bunnies soon grow into rabbits and have a lifespan as long as a dog. "Looked after correctly they are sensitive sociable creatures," he said. "But they usually end up in cramped hutches, and more often than not are handed over to the SPCA."
According to the American Humane Association, while some of these animals come into homes where they are well cared for, the majority of baby chicks that are given as Easter gifts suffer and die from lack of proper care and stress within a few weeks of the holiday.
Most purchasers give little consideration to the special feeding, care and handling their new pet requires and after the novelty wears off, do not have the time, facilities or adequate information to care for these animals properly.
Then, too, young children squeeze and cuddle baby animals, resulting in broken bones, internal injuries and death for these delicate creatures. Many are killed and injured by dogs and cats.
As the animals grow and the children get bored, these animals are neglected in backyard pens or dumped outside to return to the wild, where they die from predation, starvation or exposure. Many of them flood into shelters where they must be killed because nobody wants them.
If you are considering a little chick as an Easter pet, learn all you can first. Chickens are not low-cost or low-maintenance (as many stores will tell you). They are as big a responsibility as a larger pet and require as much care and interaction as a dog or cat.
Don't forget that these cute, fuzzy animals will grow up to be significantly larger adults. Chickens can live up to 16 years. You must be able to commit to care for at least that long.
In addition, every year children become ill with Salmonella poisoning from handling baby ducks and chicks, typically sold only during Easter. Not only is there potential harm to children from this tradition, but environmental havoc as well.
Domestic ducks released into public parks, can transmit diseases to wild flocks. Animal shelters, stretched to their limits with unwanted dogs and cats, become overwhelmed with rabbits when the novelty wears off and reality sets in.
"Not only is cruel for these baby animals to be sold without any regard for proper care, but it creates tremendous problems later, when the animals that do survive are either "dumped" in public parks or dropped off at local animal shelters", said Karen Benzel, Public Affairs Director for International Bird Rescue Research Center.
The ducklings that are sold at Easter are domestic ducks that cannot fly, and cannot "fend for themselves." They can and do carry diseases that endanger wild ducks and geese. In 1993, an outbreak of duck plague, duck virus enteritis (DVE), occurred when an infected domestic duck was released into the canals in Venice, California. Hundreds of birds were killed by wildlife authorities to prevent the virus from spreading.
The CDC has issued an alert warning that "bacteria carried in the chicks and duckling's intestine contaminates their environment and the entire surface of the animal. Children can be exposed to the bacteria by simply holding, cuddling, or kissing the birds. Others at increased risk include persons with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, the elderly and other immunocompromised persons."