By Christy Avery

Some animals at the Seattle Animal Shelter are considered highly adoptable—they have the looks, age and temperament that most adopters want. Other animals are harder to place, and Shelter volunteers go the extra mile to help these critters, cats, and dogs find their permanent homes.

Young rabbit siblings Dora and Diego were surrendered to the Seattle Animal Shelter by their former owner. The pair was poorly socialized and avoided contact with people. When potential adopters tried to engage them, the duo ran to the back of their enclosure.

Complicating matters, they each tested positive for Pasteurella, a contagious bacteria that can cause serious illness such as respiratory disease. Many rabbits live long and happy lives as carriers of Pasteurella, but there is no treatment to eliminate the bacteria.

In order to keep from spreading Pasteurella to the Shelter’s other rabbits, volunteers tended to Dora and Diego last and spent less time with them, and as a result the pair remained afraid of people. Potential adopters, wary of Dora and Diego’s health and behavioral issues, passed over them in favor of other rabbits.

Patience pays off

SAS volunteer Bridget took on the pair as a special project, and began making dedicated trips to the Shelter to work specifically with Dora and Diego. “Initially they were pretty reluctant and distrustful of humans,” she recalls. Bridget began by spending time in their enclosure and talking to them. “Eventually their bunny curiosity took over,” she says, “and they began to get closer to sniff and see what I was about.”

Slowly they became accustomed to Bridget, and they began to allow her to pet and groom them. Bridget sat with the rabbits in a pet playpen in the public areas of SAS, where pair could be exposed to other people, sights and sounds. While they never loved being picked up—most rabbits don’t—they would stand on Bridget’s leg or nudge her with their heads to get attention.

These interactions helped the pair become more trusting of people, and they stopped running away whenever a potential adopter stood in front of them. The extra attention paid off: Less than two months after Bridget began working with Dora and Diego, the pair was adopted.

The Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF) supports the work of the SAS Critter Program, which includes rabbits, other small mammals, birds and reptiles, through grants that help pay for adoption promotions, veterinary care, and supplies. To further the impact of the program and other initiatives, please consider donating to SASF.