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a special interview with oakland street bunz

We have a special post today! Jessica Peters, founder of Oakland Street Bunz, was gracious enough to take time from her busy schedule to sit down for an interview. Jessica has devoted her life to rescuing dumped and abandoned rabbits and finding them forever homes. She is here to share more about her work and bring awareness to the increased problem of pet rabbits being abandoned in Oakland and the rest of the Bay Area. 

jessica peters of oakland street bunz rabbit rescue near oakland

Fur and Feather Pet Care: Can you share more about what you do at Oakland Street Bunz?

Jessica: My primary goal is to get abandoned rabbits off the streets and out of parks as they cannot survive outside and ultimately suffer terribly before passing away. An absolutely shocking amount of domestic rabbits are dumped in the Bay Area, most of which are either purchased for Easter gifts or as “starter pets” for kids and then become unwanted & get dumped. 

Or worse, they never get spayed & neutered - which then becomes a whole litter of baby rabbits dumped. Most Animal Control Officers either aren’t willing or able to catch them so the problem can become much worse if they continue to breed while outside uncontrolled. 

My first goal is to get them to safety but so much of the work comes after that of course. If the area they were abandoned in has a municipal shelter that can intake rabbits - like OAS or SFACC or CCAS - then I will often bring them to the shelter. But of course, many areas do not intake rabbits and all too often even those that do are at capacity, so I will intake them into my rescue and begin the rehoming process. 

They need to be fixed and vaccinated at minimum and many will need additional vet care. I find fosters whenever possible although I end up being pushed past my own capacity way more than I’d like. The problem of rabbit dumping in the Bay Area is so extreme that it sometimes feels impossible to find enough fosters and adoptive homes. Sadly, this means I am only able to assist a fraction of the loose rabbits I’m alerted to each month, particularly during the height of “dumping season” which is summer and fall. 

Fur and Feather Pet Care: What amazing (& tiring) work! How did you get started? 

Jessica: I actually started rescuing rabbits this way in high school, although only intermittently at the time. The first large-scale rabbit rescue I engaged in was in Washington state when I was 18 or 19. There were hundreds of rabbits breeding out of control, generations of dumped bunnies with increasing medical problems as they’d never had access to healthy foods or vet care. It was an immense project and I learned so much about how out of control dumped rabbit populations can get and how much pain situations like that can bring for these wonderful animals. 

Much like my experiences in Bay Area neighborhoods now, the residents of that area in Washington had NO IDEA how much these poor animals were suffering. Rabbits are prey animals and do not show their distress, even when close to death, so the general public will not recognize how bad these situations are even when it’s explained in detail to them. 

homeless rabbit near Oakland

I’ve continued to intermittently rescue rabbits in these situations for decades but the dumping seems to have radically increased in recent years here and I began to formalize my efforts in hopes of saving more of them. In 2022, I rescued over 100 rabbits off the streets and in 2023, over 200 - this volume necessitates a much larger amount of help and way more foster & adoptive homes. Hence the birth of Oakland Street Bunz! 

Fur and Feather Pet Care: What does a typical day or week look like for you?

Jessica: My rescue work schedule somewhat depends on the time of year. During the dumping season, I often am up at crazy hours to catch bunnies. Rabbits are crepuscular so they are most active & likely to be caught at dawn and dusk. They sleep in the afternoon, during the heat of the day, so often during the dumping season that’s when I sleep as well. 

Rabbits dumped in deep East Oakland specifically seem to alter their hours to avoid human activity so for sightings in those areas, I will also often be out “hunting” very late at night. The last two years have been so busy that I’m often very sleep-deprived, as volunteers can attest, but time is definitely of the essence so I try to keep pushing as much as possible during the height of the season. 

bunny rescue in oakland

Of course, catching them, while difficult, is only a fraction of the work so generally my days are spent doing lots of care, cleaning & socialization. There’s lots of driving to and from spay & neuter appointments, fosters homes, more advanced vet appointments, and vetting potential adopters. I spend a great deal of time answering questions about rabbits and trying to provide care advice. I field a lot of messages about dumped bunny sightings as well as coordinating larger groups of people for rescues that cannot be accomplished by just myself and a few volunteers. 

As a general rule, the last few years have been moving at a dizzying speed & super high workload. All of which is unpaid so I also have to try to squeeze in enough time to do paid work so that I can survive until the next dumping season. Pushing myself past capacity means I enter the next year with more buns needing homes and frankly scared about my ability to manage it all and stay afloat. Ideally, I could “self-regulate” and only take on what I can manage while still having enough time for myself, but the reality of doing that is extremely difficult when I’m sent so many hundreds of pictures of sad rabbits stuck in parking lots or eating from trash piles. It’s really hard to not make rescue attempts when I see their faces and know that my effort & sleeplessness would likely be the difference between life and death. 

Fur and Feather Pet Care: You certainly can't do this all alone! What kind of help do you typically receive?

Jessica: Help comes in so many forms! Catching rabbits is very “exciting” to many people, at least at first, but it’s also pretty physically challenging and the hours are ROUGH. I certainly get help with cleaning - that’s the relentless invisible chore of any animal rescue work. I do get donations and they are LIFESAVING, full stop! I’ve yet to break even in terms of vet bills and supplies but I absolutely wouldn’t have made it through this year without the financial help of others. Fostering is for sure the biggest help I get. Just knowing some buns are welcomed into a safe spot, being monitored & given love is such a huge relief for me. The best, happiest help of all though is to see these rescues end up in a happy furever home where they’ll be given the love they deserve and never end up scared, hungry & cold outside again. 

rescued rabbit near Oakland

Fur and Feather Pet Care: How can the Oakland community help more?

Jessica: Honestly, the biggest help would be to educate everyone around you on basic rabbit care. If you see a rabbit stuck in a hutch or living outside, go talk to the humans involved and educate them about proper indoor housing, spay/neuter, and vet care as well as proper diet. Without spaying and neutering, this will never get better. As many times as Bob Barker said “Remember to spay & neuter your pets”, the message has only been received for dogs and cats - and of course even then not enough! 

But rabbits, well…they breed like rabbits, and with a 30-day gestational cycle, 2 uterine horns, and large litters, this is a basic math problem. We MUST ensure rabbits in our area get fixed or we will end up with so many more thousands of buns suffering on our streets, in our neighborhoods, and in parks. It can be uncomfortable to talk to neighbors and encourage them to care for their animals better but the discomfort we experience doing that necessary work is nothing compared to what rabbits experience when dumped or loose. 

It’s also really useful to speak with folks who have a solo rabbit about how important fellow-bun companionship is! Many people don’t realize how incredibly significant this is to the well-being of their bunnies and I’d really like to see that change. Plus, having more folks with solo rabbits take them on speed-dating visits at local shelters and rescues would facilitate more adoptions of course so it’s a win-win! 

I desperately need more fosters and adopters as well. My posts that show buns on the streets and then safe post-rescue get the most attention but these rabbits aren’t “all the way” saved until they’ve found their furever homes! Word of mouth means everything - so many folks don’t know how lovely it is to have rabbits in the home. Speaking to animal lovers you know about fostering is such a huge help & would allow me to rescue more off the streets. Finally, I am older and not so adept at anything to do with technology so I could really use more help in that department, which would hopefully increase my chances of finding homes for all these cute bunnies.

Wow! We want to thank Jessica for taking time from her packed schedule to talk to us. If you want to help solve the plight of the Bay Area’s dumped rabbits, reach out to Oakland Street Bunz to find out how you can provide a foster home for the surplus of rabbits that need homes. You can also help by adopting a rescued rabbit and providing a permanent home. Check out the Oakland Street Bunz Facebook Page for a link to their Amazon wish list to help provide food and supplies so they can save more abandoned rabbits. 


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