Amy McLaughlin’s home is filled with life, laughs, and love.
But it’s most known for being the house on the block with tons of bunnies.
The Sooke woman has spent more than five years running a bunny rescue business out of her home.
Since late 2015, she’s been able to rescue more than 400 rabbits across Vancouver Island and parts of the mainland. She prides herself in giving the fluffy animals a second chance at life after others leave them abandoned, abused or emaciated.
“Since I started it, it’s been quite challenging,” said McLaughlin. “It feels like I never really shut off. Taking care of them is almost a full-time job, but I have such a special bond with each of them.”
She pointed out Theodore, a bunny with black and white patches that will be heading to his forever home in Nanaimo if an upcoming bunny play-date goes well with his new family.
As someone with a decade of experience at the BCSPCA, McLaughlin takes the process of adopting one of her bunnies seriously. Each bunny has a name, is litter trained and neutered or spayed before being handed over to another owner.
Besides the 20 bunnies that live in her single-car garage, four baby bunnies are in a bathtub, another in the living room and another in her stepson’s room. With two cats, two dogs and six bunnies of her own, the business has been splitting the seams of her home. Now, the Sooke woman is looking to expand.
A GoFundMe page has been launched to raise funds to purchase a permanent bunny rescue facility.
McLaughlin has dreams of having more space to house more bunnies, with the potential for educational seminars for new owners and the ability to sell locally made rabbit supplies. She’s looking for land to host both a new home and a large enough facility to provide 24/7 access to the bunnies.
The goal for the GoFundMe is set at $100,000, and around $3,500 has been raised so far.
“As someone with allergies, I’ve never been able to have a lot of pets,” said Christie Ross, a friend since adopting her bunny from Amy two years ago. “My husband and I were talking about what we would do for Amy if we were to win the lottery. She works her butt off and has such a big heart.”
Although McLaughlin gets the perks of snuggling bunnies and watching them grow, sometimes she has to face the harsh reality of her work.
Last month, McLaughlin lost two litters of bunnies within a week of two pregnant moms giving birth.
The babies were too malnourished to survive after the mother rabbit was abandoned and alone on a logging road. She also watched another bunny let out its last breath after suffering a severe seizure, only weeks after being dumped just outside of Nanaimo.
“Sometimes I ask why I’m doing this to myself,” said McLaughlin. “No matter how many bunnies, am I making a difference? You lose sleep over it, and I’m worried all the time whether the ones that recover can find a new home. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster learning to trust people with animals after working in the industry for 20 years.”
Nonetheless, she continues to do the work because she believes rabbits are misunderstood and vulnerable.
She was part of the group that drove 46 bunnies to Texas after becoming an overpopulation problem along Highway 1 in 2016.
Looking ahead, McLaughlin hopes that owners who hopped onto the idea of owning a rabbit to combat loneliness in the pandemic won’t end up dumping them the moment they realize the level of commitment required.
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