Getting a fluffy bunny for Easter sounds like a great idea, right? Maybe not. Animal activists warn that while giving a bunny as an Easter surprise seems like a nice gesture, the real surprise may be what happens once the novelty wears off.

With Easter right around the corner, activists and pet enthusiasts are cautioning against getting bunnies for your loved ones this weekend.

New Canaan resident and Humane Society of the United States' National Council member Cathy Kangas asks that parents give serious thought before heading out to buy a bunny.

"These pets can have a life span of 15 years or more," she said, adding that it's a long-term commitment to care for a pet, and that a great number end up in the local shelter once the kids become bored and no longer care for them.

Many animal activists agree with Kangas, and believe welcoming a pet should ideally be a decision made by the family as a whole.

"Due to the popular association of rabbits and Easter, and the proliferation of bunnies at pet stores around Easter, it can be tempting to bring home a live rabbit for Easter. But unless you have done your research and are certain a pet rabbit will be a good fit for your household, this can be a bad idea," Dr. Lianne McLeod, a veterinarian who writes for About.com, said. "Owners who didn't know what to expect from a pet bunny often end up surrendering them to shelters after Easter once the novelty wears off and the amount of work required to properly care for pet rabbits becomes apparent."

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Priscilla Feral, president of the Darien-based Friends of Animals, agreed the practice of giving pets as gifts is a risky one.

"When pets are given as gifts, it almost never works out because you don't have the consent or the commitment from the recipient to take care of that animal," Feral said. "After the novelty wears off in a few hours, you can have a situation where the animal becomes inconvenient."

Rabbits will chew on everything they can reach, which means the owner will have to be careful about wires and other household items, Feral said.

"It's inconvenient to have an animal chewing on everything, so people choose to keep them in a cage and that's not a good lifestyle for the rabbit," Feral said. "Most rabbits end up in shelters and no one is interested in them."

Dubuque suggested several ways families could make the decision together and even still make it a surprise. She said to wait until after the holidays to actually get the pet, but use Christmas or Easter as a chance to announce the intention of getting the animal. Some of the recommendations include giving a stuffed animal or picture of the pet you may want to get later, personalized food and water bowls for the prospective pet or even a gift certificate for pet goods like food and cages.

Whatever the animal, the one thing they need is attention, Kangas said.

"That cute (pet) requires more than love; it needs to be trained, cared for constantly and watched for any signs of aggression toward other animals in the homes of small children," Kangas said. "Even a goldfish requires a commitment of time."

Staff Writer Ben Holbrook contributed to this report.

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