Hoffman Estates skeptical of hopping into rabbit regulations

Hoffman Estates officials were all ears this week during a spirited debate between representatives of animal rescues and the owner of a pet store over whether more regulations are needed for the commercial sale of rabbits.

Toni Greetis, vice president of Red Door Animal Shelter in Chicago, asked the village board to consider a local law either encouraging greater collaboration between rescues and pet stores on rabbit care or requiring the popular but prolific pets to be spayed or neutered.

"We count from one Easter to the next how many people want to give up their rabbits," she said. "So far I have 385 rabbits on my waitlist, people who want to give them up."

She said 25% of them came from the Petland store in Hoffman Estates, with another 10% from a jointly owned Petland in Bolingbrook.

Petland store owner Janet Star said she receives rabbits from a responsible breeder and the store educates customers caring for the animals, most of which are four to six weeks old when sold.

Star said she's been voluntarily microchipping rabbits at her Bolingbrook store over a concern in that community over the number of domestic rabbits being released into the wild. Animal control officials have yet to find a microchipped bunny among them, she said.

Hoffman Estates Police Chief Kasia Cawley said finding of stray domestic rabbits is a rare occurrence in the village.

Greetis said impulsive rabbit buyers often lose interest in the animals as pets as they grow older.

"By the time it's four or five months of age, well beyond what it's being sold at a pet store, it's hormonally aggressive, it will spray urine, it will bite, it will destroy things," she said. "And that's when people throw them outside, because rabbits don't get the amount of respect dogs and cats do, even though they're the third most popular pet in the United States."

Hoffman Estates officials, including Village Manager Eric Palm, suggested there's only so much responsibility pet stores can bear for the behavior of pet owners.

"Certainly there is also a concept of personal responsibility of the people who do purchase these rabbits and how they take care of them and maintain them," he said.

Trustee Gary Pilafas agreed.

"I don't know how to legislate ignorance," he said. "It's no different from me saying to Nissan, hey, you can't sell Armadas because it's the biggest SUV and it kills people when ignorant drivers hit them. Maybe that's a bad analogy, but I don't know how to put a constraint on a business."

Mayor Bill McLeod concurred with the staff recommendation to take no action, with which the rest of the board agreed.

"The state can obviously do something if they want to do it," McLeod said. "If they can ban cats and dogs (at pet stores), they can ban rabbits, too. If you're going to do it, do it statewide."

  Hoffman Estates village board members declined a request this week that they regulate the sale of rabbits at pet stores like Petland. The proposal was made by representatives of animal rescue organizations in the region. Eric Peterson/, 2016
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