Think Twice Before Putting a Pet Bunny in the Easter Basket This Weekend

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Wouldn’t your kids love it if the Easter Bunny brought them a real live bunny this Sunday? While the idea of giving a rabbit on Easter sounds adorable, a nonprofit pet rescue organization is trying to talk parents out of it. Why? Having a rabbit is easily a 10-year commitment—something few families think of at the time—and having a rabbit costs over $1,000 in the first year and $700+ annually thereafter. Also, if you have two kids and unknowingly get two rabbits of the opposite sex, there’s the strong possibility that they could reproduce like, well, like you know what.

The House Rabbit Society recently announced that it “strongly urges parents not to buy their children live “Easter bunnies” unless they’ve done the research and really know what they’re getting themselves into. The nonprofit’s president, Marge DeMello, whose name sorta sounds like a soft, gooey treat one would indulge in on Easter, cautions parents that rabbits are “not ‘low-maintenance’ pets”:

“They require at least the same amount of work as a cat or dog, and often more. Chocolate rabbits are a great alternative; kids can enjoy them for 10 minutes, and they won’t have to take care of them for the next 10 years.”

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Conveniently, the House Rabbit Society is partners with Rescue Chocolate, whose proceeds are donated to animal rescue organizations. The “Make Mine Chocolate” bunny, as opposed to the real-live fluffy bunny, runs $6.50.

The National Retail Federation estimates that the average person will spend $145.38 on Easter 2012, up 11% from $131.04 last year. The total includes $20.35 on candy, up from $18.55 in 2011.

Those figures are tiny compared to the cost of buying and owning an actual breathing, nose-wiggling, carrot-eating rabbit. According to the ASPCA, a bunny costs $1,055 in the first year, including expenses for a cage, litter box, and spaying or neutering the creature. Afterward, feeding and caring for a rabbit runs $730 annually. Owners can expect a rabbit to live for roughly 10 years, so a cute bunny bought on a whim can easily turn into a decade-long endeavor that costs thousands of dollars.

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Karla Bowsher, a blogger at Money Talks News who owns two rabbits (one an unwanted Easter gift she found released in her neighborhood), also warns against the Easter Bunny bringing bunnies because rabbits shed and need to eat plenty of surprisingly expensive hay. Also, rabbits need to get exercise outside their cages, which for many people means periodically releasing them inside one’s home. This can be both complicated and costly, notes Bowsher:

First you’ll have to ‘rabbit-proof’ your home so they don’t chew through electrical cords or gnaw on wood furniture. My younger (and feistier) bunny has destroyed everything from lamps to pricey electronics after sneaking out of her enclosure and into rooms that weren’t rabbit-proofed.

The ASPCA figures $160 covers the cost to spay or neuter a rabbit. If you do decide to bring bunnies into your home, this is money well spent. The Springfield (MA) Republican recently published a story about a woman who owned just two wascally wabbits just three years ago. Last week, at the owner’s request, the local humane society took 70 rabbits away from the woman, and was offering a special two-for-one adoption on the rescued rabbits.

(MORE: Maybe Pet Spending Isn’t Recession-Proof After All)

Let’s hope all of the new owners know what they’re getting themselves into.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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