Rabbit sanctuary in Garland ready for post-Easter

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GARLAND, Texas (AP) — If the Easter bunny needs any help delivering all those eggs this weekend, maybe he could use a set of wheels.

Two-year-old Lily the bionic Lionhead bunny may not hop to it like her four-legged friends at the North Texas Rabbit Sanctuary in Garland, but she gets around just fine thanks to a wheelchair made by a volunteer.

"Lily has an amazing zest for life and has adjusted great to her situation," said Barbara Yule, owner and founder of the nonprofit sanctuary. "She doesn't even know she doesn't have two hind legs."

The Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/YPys3k ) reports the bunny's legs were amputated after she broke her back trying to jump onto her owner's couch when she was a couple of months old. Effie Giannopoulos, a veterinarian at City Vet in Oak Lawn, performed the procedure.

"This is not a common surgery, and it is seen as a last resort after severe trauma to the spinal area," Giannopoulos said.

Giannopoulos said rabbits that overcome such an injury must have a great will to live and dedicated people to care for them. Lily took care of the first part and gets the special attention she needs at the sanctuary.

But it's not just disabled bunnies that need a lot of care, a point that Yule and fellow rabbit rescuer Marilyn Riha-Kourvelas emphasize to anyone who may want to adopt a fluffy new pet to celebrate the holiday.

"People get rabbits to put into Easter baskets and do not understand how to take care of them, causing injuries to the bunnies," said Riha-Kourvelas, who heads a smaller branch of the sanctuary for sick and injured rabbits that will never be adopted.

Yule knows from experience that not everyone is prepared for the 10- to 12-year commitment that owning an exotic pet entails.

After having a bunny of her own when she was younger, Yule realized she did not take proper care of the pet. So 20 years ago she began the sanctuary out of her home, giving abandoned rabbits a safe home and teaching people how to take care of the animals.

Volunteers, who range from teenagers to adults, come in every Saturday to help clean litter boxes and play with the rabbits. The sanctuary runs on the $35,000 to $40,000 in donations it receives each year from sponsors, online donations and Easter basket sales.

People can adopt any one of the 40 rabbits Yule cares for, but they must fill out an application before entering the sanctuary. And this time of year she makes the process more difficult because so many injured or sick rabbits are returned after the holiday because of improper care.

Yule said there are two especially important things people who adopt domesticated rabbits need to remember.

"Never, ever let them outside, and if the person has to give up the animal, they must bring it back to the sanctuary," she said.

As for Lily, she's not available. The lionhearted Lionhead, a Belgian breed named for the mane of hair around its head, lives with 14 other special-needs rabbits at Riha-Kourvelas' sanctuary.

"No one wants to take on that kind of commitment," said Riha-Kourvelas, who began caring for rabbits a decade ago after she adopted one from Yule and fell in love.

For anyone looking for a rabbit with not as many problems, Yule's house is the place to go. She has Nate, the 16-pound Flemish giant rabbit, and Pico, who has a coat like the storybook favorite Velveteen Rabbit.

But Lily is one of a kind, with a personality that Riha-Kourvelas said is "both independent and curious."

"She is a little diva," she said.

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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