Pet rabbits take over Florida suburb after breeder illegally lets bunnies loose

Dozens of pet rabbits fill the streets of Florida's Jenada Isles suburb, and resident Alicia Griggs is on a mission to make sure they are rescued

Around 100 pet rabbits have taken over part of Florida after a breeder illegally let them loose when she moved house.

Since being allowed to run free, the fluffy creatures have been breeding and in the past two years their population has boomed. Females can have litters of two-to-six offspring every month.

The rabbits have filled Jenada Isles, an 81-home community in the city of Wilton Manors.

Rabbits gather on the pavement. Credit: AP

Now, the lionhead rabbits hop along the roads and congregate towards their human neighbours who supply them with food and scraps.

But for the domesticated breed, a life of cars, cats, hawks, Florida heat and possibly government-hired exterminators can get a little hairy.

Instead of the seven to nine years they live when properly housed, their lives outdoors are brutal and shortened.

Rabbit runs in front of a car. Credit: AP

The lionheads' heavy coat makes them overheat during Florida summers and their lack of fear makes them susceptible to predators, munching on lawns is not their correct diet and their illnesses go untreated.

Resident Alicia Griggs: “They really need to be rescued. So we’ve tried to get the city to do it, but they’re just dragging their feet.

"They think that if they do that, then they’ll have to get rid of iguanas and everything else that people don’t want around.”

Alicia Griggs looks out at rabbits outside her home. Credit: AP

Monica Mitchell, whose East Coast Rabbit Rescue would likely lead the effort, said capturing, treating and finding homes for them “is not an easy process.”

Wilton Manors city commission is giving Griggs and other supporters time to raise the $20,000 to $40,000 needed and relocate the rabbits, despite voting to exterminate them in April.The vote came after some residents complained the lionheads dig holes, chew outdoor wiring and leave droppings on sidewalks and driveways.

Credit: AP

City commissioners also feared the rabbits could spread into neighbouring communities and cities and become a traffic hazard if they ventured onto major streets.

“The safety of this rabbit population is of utmost importance to the City, and any decision to involve ourselves will be certain to see these rabbits placed into the hands of people with a passion to provide the necessary care and love for these rabbits,” Police Chief Gary Blocker said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which often culls invasive animals, has told the city it will not get involved. It said the rabbits pose no immediate threat to wildlife.

Credit: AP

Gator Carter, who puts out food for them, says the rabbits bring the neighborhood joy and his two young grandchildren love giving them carrots.

“People drive by, stop, love them, feed them,” Carter said.

“They don't bother me. We have a couple Airbnbs on the island here and the people (guests) are just amazed that the rabbits come right up to them."

Credit: AP

But fellow resident Jon King said he wants the rabbits gone soon.

They dig in his garden and he spent $200 repairing his outdoor lights after they damaged the wiring.

He bought rabbit repellent, but that didn't work, and his little dog doesn't scare them: “He's their best friend.”

“Every morning, I get up and first thing I do is cover up the holes and chase them out of the backyard. I like them, I just wish they would go somewhere else,” King said. “Rescue would be great."

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