A friend of mine emailed me today asking if I wanted a rabbit. She had acquired the rabbit at the local Family Dollar where at the entrance she was assaulted by two small crying children and their ratty cardboard box with a sign "Free bunny-very loving-loves to cuddle-we cannot keep her". Apparently the children had gotten the rabbit as a free Easter bunny this spring. The landlord of their apartment found out about the rabbit and told the family that they would have to add $40 to their monthly rent to keep a pet in the apartment. They couldn't afford that so they had to give the rabbit away in the quickest way possible (which was to stand outside the Family Dollar and hand the bunny to a random stranger???). The rabbit was thin and full of fleas. The family obviously not only didn't have $40 for added rent fee but also didn't have $10 for proper rabbit food. My friend rescued the rabbit. She took it to the vet and got it started on flea treatment and a proper diet. She can't keep the rabbit indefinitely due to having too many pets in her house already, so she asked me to take the rabbit once she gets it nursed back to health. I agreed and would be happy to have a use again for my empty rabbit hutch.
While I am glad the rabbit found a happy ending to its story, I am sad to hear about how the animal ended up this way. It happens all the time when people get "free" pets and animals, only to bring them home and learn that keeping an animal is nowhere near "free" to do. Animals require lots of things to stay healthy and happy, and those things cost money. First, they need food. They need a food that is designed for them and provides the proper nutrients, minerals and vitamins to keep them healthy. Second, they need a place to live. Small animals, like rabbits, need cages and large animals, like horses, need pastures and sheds for shelter. Third, they usually need some sort of interaction. While rabbits and cats don't usually mind a lack of interaction, horses and dogs need a lot more interaction, some of which may cost money and all of which will cost time.
This is why I don't make a habit of giving animals away for free. I figure that if a person can't pay $20 for a rabbit or chicken, then they obviously can't pay the weekly fee it will cost to feed that rabbit or chicken, let alone pay for the other things they may need that will cost more money. I would rather eat my rabbit or chicken who I can no longer pay for than to give it to someone who can't pay for it either. At least by eating it, I will be making some of my money that I put into it back. Of course, this doesn't work for dogs, horses, and cats but those are animals that need to be carefully considered before getting, no matter whether they are free or not.