"We see a number of rabbits come in three to four months after Easter, when the novelty has worn off," said Scott Delucchi, spokesman for the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.
Of the 350 rabbits abandoned at the San Mateo shelter last year, about 100 came in during that time period, he said.
There are more than a dozen rabbits ready for adoption. But year after year, families eager for their own Easter bunnies go to their local pet stores instead, said Donna Jensen, manager of the Peninsula House Rabbit Society.
At Laurelwood Pet Shop in San Mateo, three young dwarf rabbits huddled under their hutch Friday afternoon as customers cooed at the black-and-white furballs, priced at $29.95 each.
Moe Olfat, store manager, said the store advises people to first buy a book on rabbit care, then the cage and supplie, and the animal last of all.
"It's just like a marriage. You get the house ready and then you take the bride home," he said. "We don't want any divorce."
If the customers decide to return the rabbits, the store only will take them back within a few days. After that, they are referred to the Peninsula Humane Society.
"We get a lot of their rabbits," Jensen said, sighing. "At the pet store, they're just in the market for selling rabbits they're not really concerned with who gets them and how they're going to live."
Holiday shoppers usually aren't prepared for a 10-year commitment, she said. They haven't taken into account a rabbit's needs exercise, indoor housing, proper diet, chew toys and don't realize they are not appropriate pets for young children.
"They don't really enjoy being handled like other domestic animals might," Delucchi said. "Their spines are very, very fragile. They can also bite."
The Peninsula Humane Society counselors discuss these issues before allowing a rabbit adoption, which costs $40 and includes spaying and neutering.
The shelter doesn't have a specific time limit on getting the animals adopted, but Delucchi said 94 percent of the healthy rabbits found new homes last year; the rest were euthanized.
"It was for no other reason than we didn't have enough space, and nobody would take them," he said.
Jensen has 40 foster rabbits in her South San Francisco home right now, along with her dog and two cats. Assuming the prospective owners have "done their homework" and will treat the animals like a member of their family, she strongly recommends pet rabbits.
"They can be litterbox trained, they don't make any noise, they don't need any shots," she said. "They can be very playful with toys."
At Laurelwood Pet Shop, Olfat said he has encouraged several shoppers this week to think carefully before buying the dwarf rabbits.
"They need a lot of care," Olfat said. "We told them to talk to their families and then come back."
Staff writer Nicole Neroulias can be reached at (650) 306-2427 or firstname.lastname@example.org.