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NY City council votes to ban sale of bunnies by pet shops

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[December 18, 2014]  By Sebastien Malo
 NEW YORK (Reuters) - What do bunny rabbits have in common with hyenas, wolverines and polar bears? The adorable little creatures are about to join a menagerie of wildlife prohibited for sale by New York City pet shops.

The New York City Council voted on Wednesday to outlaw the bunny trade to help curb a glut of unwanted rabbits at city shelters by people who had second thoughts about caring for the cuddly creatures.

"Rabbits are sometimes disappointing especially when you buy them for your child," said Margo DeMello, president of the House Rabbit Society, in Richmond, California, which she described as the world's largest rabbit shelter. "They're ground-dwelling and they do not want to be held and carried around by a kid."

Elizabeth S. Crowley, the New York councilwoman who is lead co-sponsor of the bill, said she expected Mayor Bill de Blasio to sign the legislation into law because of the strong support the measure received on the council.

De Blasio, who took office in January, is known as an ardent supporter of animal rights. The mayor made a campaign promise to outlaw Central Park's famous horse-drawn carriages, popular among tourists but condemned by activists. A bill to that effect was introduced this month in City Council.

The mayor's office did not respond to a request for comment about the rabbit bill.

Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles also have laws banning the sale of rabbits by pet stores.

"There are problems with people who purchase bunnies and don't know how to care for them," said Crowley, from Queens. "The bunny population has been growing out of control."

The bunny ban is part of a larger legislative package also regulating the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.

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Animal Care & Control of NYC, a shelter contracted by the city, said it took in 376 rabbits between January and October. That compares with 283 rabbits in 2011 and 382 in 2013 The list of animals specially banned for sale by New York pet stores that includes skunks, cougars, wolves, pandas, bats and gorillas, among dozens of others.

But city officials are currently weighing lifting the ban on ferrets, which the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene pronounced prone to "vicious, unprovoked attacks" when it outlawed the creatures in 1999.

(Editing By Frank McGurty and David Gregorio)

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