So shortly after Umbra came into my life, a family at my church also got a rabbit identical to Umbra (except that it is a male). My mom often does odd jobs for them, including pet sitting (they have several cats and a dog and often a rotation of other pets.. I have no idea what happens to them), so I went along. I noticed the rabbit was not being kept in the ideal conditions. He was housed in a wire bottom crate (much to small) with nothing to rest in except the litter box, had very few toys and although they had bought hay (which is great! most people don't realized how important it is), there was not any in the cage. I left them a friendly note giving them a few pointers and advising them to get the little guy neutered before too long (or face the consequences.. and the mess).
This was about a year ago.
Yesterday, I returned to help my mom clean up leaves. On the pretense of needing hydration, I entered the house to check up on Umbra's doppelganger, and was instantly disappointed: they had not followed any of my advise. There was no hay in the cage, not a single toy and no clean hard surface for the little guy to rest his feet on. He was so excited when I deposited a pile of hay into his crate and instantly began eating. Last time I had places some toys in the enclosure, but now there were none to be found. And the only thing I could find to provide a more comfortable resting surface was some old newspapers. He acted a little teritorial when I reached in the cage, I suspect he is still "intact", but as I stroked his forehead he calmed down quickly and seems to have a good disposition. Unfortunately, I did not inspect his feet, but as even Umbra has problems with hers even living on carpet, I wouldn't be surprised if they were in poor condition.
I realize that I may seem pushy if I confront them; people don't like being told how to take care of their animals. However, it breaks my heart to see him living such a way. Plus, this rabbit was purchased for the enjoyment of the family's children, and having gone through the untimely and rather gruesome death of my childhood rabbits, I would hate to see those children's hearts broken. It is not their fault that they are not familiar with proper rabbit care, and I do not blame the parents entirely either, although I had hinted them previously. I understand that it is frustrating for parents to be left with the responsibility of taking care of animals neglected by the children who begged so persistently to have them. Nonetheless, if someone offers you advice and you ignore it out of your own convenience, why did you buy the animal in the first place. As the adult, it is your responsibility to at least make sure the children care for the animal, if not do it yourself (which you should expect, they are children after all). Think of the example you are setting for your children as well: you can have anything you have the passing whim for, with no consequences, and second responsibilities are not mandatory. When you bring an animal into your life, you have entered a contract, although not always written or even spoken, that you give that animal the utmost care and attention so that it lives a happy and as long of a life as should be expected for its species.
So despite the awkwardness of confronting someone, and the risk of appearing like an animal-loving freak, I will being printing out all the information I can get from HRS and giving it to the family this Sunday as well as making the serious offer to take the rabbit into my care if they decide it is "too much of a hassle". It is not crazy to want animals to be treated humanely and with compassion. It is crazy to neglect and abuse them. We are human beings, with our capabilities, we must also adhere to our responsibilities. This is the mark of a higher species. Live up to it.