Rabbit fundraiser to help quell a ‘quiet little epidemic’

Raising money to rescue rabbits for Long Island Rabbit Rescue in Sea Cliff


Rabbits are hopping their way back into Sea Cliff with the return of the Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group fundraiser on Saturday. The event raises money for Long Island’s largest volunteer rabbit rescue organization.

The event is the Rescue Group’s first in-person fundraiser in Sea Cliff since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The group is made up of rabbit enthusiasts and owners from across Long Island, who address rabbit-related issues in their communities.

Mary Anne Maier, the group’s co-founder and a Sea Cliff resident, said the volunteer organization gets 30 to 60 calls a month about a variety of problems, from owners with sick pets to locating homes for abandoned rabbits.

One of the most heartbreaking problems they deal with is finding and saving abandoned pet rabbits left to fend for themselves in the wild. Maier said domesticated rabbits have no survival instincts after a lifetime in captivity. Her group have found and rescued over 1,000 homeless rabbits last year.

“That’s the big problem that no one knows about because they don’t bark and they’re under the radar once they’re on the street,” Maier said. “It’s kind of a different scene from cat and dog rescue in that it’s like this quiet little epidemic.”

The group began holding its fundraiser in 2015, thanks in large part to the efforts of another Sea Cliff resident and rabbit-owner, Mark Hagan. He first became aware of the group after a chance encounter with Maier, where he discussed the health issues of his beloved pet rabbit, Lucy.

Maier helped Hagan get in contact with her veterinarian to address Lucy’s health concerns. Hagan expressed his gratitude by recruiting friends to put together the group’s first major fundraiser event at Still Partners in Sea Cliff, the home of the event every year since.

“It’s an educational event to encourage adoption under the right conditions and discourage impulse buying,” Hagan said. “This is really my thank you for giving the directions to help my own rabbit, and it’s one of their biggest fundraisers of the year.”

The event leans heavily toward an Easter Bunny theme with the fundraiser traditionally held the week before Easter Sunday. This year it’s being held earlier, on Saturday.

The Easter Bunny will make an appearance providing children and adults with an opportunity to take photos. Attendees can also purchase T-shirts and tote bags with the Easter Bunny image.

The group also brings several “ambassador bunnies” with them to the event — rescued rabbits acclimated to handle larger crowds. While attendees won’t be able to hold or pick up the rabbits, they will have the opportunity to pet them to their hearts’ content.

“We have to make sure that we’re going to bring only what we call our ‘bombproof bunnies’ to the event,” Maier explained, “rabbits who will be comfortable and not panic and either get sick or injure themselves by being afraid.”

Additionally, there will be a raffle featuring both rabbit-themed prizes such as giant chocolate Easter Bunnies, bottles of wine or paintings. Hagan said that most of the gifts are donated by different businesses and community members, such as the Onion Tree, Country Club Florist and Brooklyn-based chocolaterie Jacques Torres Chocolates.

All money raised goes towards supporting the Rescue Group. Hagan said that previous fundraising events, made as much as $6,000 for the group. He plans to match at least half of the total raised, which he has done at every fundraiser in the past.

Maier and Hagan both mentioned how excited they were to be holding the fundraiser after a three-year hiatus, and they expect the fundraiser to be as fun for the community as it is essential to the Rescue Group.