It’s almost Easter, and you may be thinking it’s time to shake off the winter with a photo shoot at your local studio. As grown-ups we can’t help but be attracted to pictures of kids cuddling tiny bunnies, chicks and ducklings. Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of the season that we want our kids to know the thrill of a real, live baby animal in the basket on Easter morning.
But it’s not so simple. These tiny new lives will soon be adult rabbits, chickens and ducks, grown animals looking forward to a long and safe life. Do you expect that the photographer is going to keep the five bunnies and 25 ducklings they ordered online and assure them a good life? Is your son or daughter going to be thrilled to clean Easter Bunny’s litter pan in six months? Most Easter babies are cast off into the wild shortly after Easter, to die of exposure, starvation or predation. Lucky ones are surrendered to an animal sheltering organization, but they might spend months waiting to find their forever home.
This year, make a different choice. Consider giving a plush toy or a chocolate rabbit. Plush baby bunnies or chicks make fabulous gifts for your kids. They also make great photo props, don’t carry diseases and won’t suffer if your child outgrows them. A plush pet can go along with the kids on car rides, to school and become a lasting memento of springtime and Easter. If your family loves sweets, fill their baskets with delicious candy such as lollipops and jelly beans.
You can’t deny that kids and animals go together—so don’t. Celebrate the season of renewal with a trip to an animal sanctuary or nature center, so your kids can see spring’s babies with their natural families. Or celebrate Easter at a local park, watching ducks on the pond and learning about our magnificent natural world. Visit or volunteer at your local animal shelter or humane society (find yours at http://theshelterpetproject.org) and let your kids get up close with the dogs, cats, puppies, kittens and even rabbits and ducks who were cast-off by impulse buyers last year.
And if you’ve thought it through carefully and are ready for a lifetime commitment, spring is the perfect time to open your home to a new addition. Adopt a pet who will remind your family for years to come that Easter is about celebrating life and sharing compassion with all living creatures.
Take a pass on the Easter babies as gifts or photography props this year. Make a different choice.
KC Theisen is director of pet care issues at The Humane Society of the United States