Volunteer Lori Crestfield enjoys caring for rabbits at Goleta shelter
There goes one!
A rabbit magically appears out of thin air and disappears just as quickly, running and hopping down aisles between hutches.
There goes another one!
“Watch your step. There’s a bunny coming up behind you,” said a volunteer as a bunny hops past a visitor.
Welcome to Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter.
Also known as BUNS.
The shelter has been here for more than 30 years on the Santa Barbara County Animal Services campus on Overpass Road in Goleta. This is where almost 80 rabbits and 16 guinea pigs live together.
Some of the rabbits, in fact, share their large, ground-level, fenced areas with guinea pigs. They’re the rabbits who like guinea pigs.
“There are some bunnies who don’t like guinea pigs,” volunteer and BUNS board member Lori Crestfield told the News-Press Saturday. “Bunnies are very opinionated about what they like or don’t like.
“We have bunnies who can’t be put in with guinea pigs,” she said. “Others are fine. They don’t care; they’re like, ‘whatever.’”
As the News-Press watched, one guinea pig in one area put its hands on a soft-wire fence and greeted the guinea pig next door, who likewise had its hands on the fence. Howdy, neighbor!
Ms. Crestfield was giving the News-Press a tour on the day when free adoptions were being provided by Santa Barbara County Animal Services and its next-door neighbor on Overpass Road, Santa Barbara Humane.
On Saturday morning, people were taking cats and big dogs home. No sweat.
But while free adoptions would be honored for anyone picking a bunny on Saturday, rabbits couldn’t leave immediately. It takes time to prepare for their homecoming.
“We don’t just hand out bunnies. They’re not like dogs and cats,” Ms. Crestfield explained as one bunny ran past her and other rabbits slept in their large, fenced areas. “People don’t normally know how to take care of them or how to feed them. They don’t normally have set-ups for them at home.
“If someone finds a bunny they like, we can help them get materials, cages and food that they need,” Ms. Crestfield said. “Bunnies have to have hay. They have to have the right pet set-up. They have to have a play area.
“We counsel people more with bunnies,” she said. “They’re not your usual pets.”
Ms. Crestfield said the rabbits come to the shelter for a variety of reasons.
“They come to us from being strays, from unfriendly environments for bunnies or abusive situations,” she said, walking down an aisle between the hutches and open-air, fenced areas where some rabbits were sleeping. “People turn them in because they’re moving, or they don’t want them anymore. Or they’re not getting along with their dogs or their cats or their kids.
“We also get momma bunnies who have babies, so we have all those babies,” Ms. Crestfield said.
“If a pregnant bunny comes in here, we send them home with a foster family until the babies are born,” she said.
She looked down at some of the rabbits and said some of them are babies from rabbits who came to the shelter.
At one point, a white rabbit ran and jumped, then turned in the air, landing gently and, without missing a beat, running in another direction. It was unstoppable.
“That is a very happy bunny,” Ms. Crestfield said. “That is what we call a binky. That means the bunny is very happy.
“If they jump up and do that twist, that’s the ultimate happiness bunny,” she said.
“We let a couple of them out (at a time), and we let them run around and greet people,” Ms. Crestfield said. “Then we put those back and let a couple more out so they can have a lot of exercise.”
Ms. Crestfield has been a volunteer at the shelter for more than five years and clearly loves being with the bunnies.
“I like this environment. I like working with bunnies,” Ms. Crestfield said, just before a dog barked briefly from the Animal Services shelter next to BUNS. “It’s a calm place to work, except when the dogs are barking.”
She introduced the News-Press to various rabbits, like the light-brown colored Toffee. He’s a palomino and harlequin mix and has large, dramatic eyes.
He was a little surprised when the volunteer picked him up for the News-Press to photograph.
“Are you OK? You’re not sure. You don’t know me, but you’re being a good bun-bun,” Ms. Crestfield told Toffee in a soft voice. “It’s OK, baby.”
Her gentle approach and smile reassured Toffee, and he was soon comfortable with her and with being photographed.
“Bunnies are prey animals so they’re a little bit afraid when somebody has them,” Ms. Crestfield said.
She led the way past other rabbits, such as Bo Peep, who was apparently counting sheep during a nap. She pointed to a pair of bonded rabbits, Humpty Dumpty and Rumpelstiltskin.
Irika, a Florida white mix rabbit, was perfectly calm when Ms. Crestfield picked her up.
“She’s really sweet,” Ms. Crestfield said as she held her. She noted Irika needs to be adopted with her bonded mate, Lief, a black Havana rabbit who isn’t as friendly as Irika.
“I think if he got to know somebody, he would be fine,” Ms. Crestfield said.
There’s no doubt that the volunteer cares deeply about the rabbits around her, and they seem to respond well to her.
“It’s nice to take care of these guys because they need it,” Ms. Crestfield said while the bunnies kept hopping.