With their cute furry faces and soft long ears, it is hard to resist a cuddle with a rabbit.
But despite being adorable, rabbits are often neglected as people forget they can live for up to 14 years.
Unwanted and neglected, bunnies are being forgotten about but that is where ‘bunny mummy’ Vanessa Taylor steps in.
The 40-year-old from Paulsgrove runs South Coast Rabbit Rescue – a Facebook page dedicated to rehoming rabbits.
Vanessa takes care of the bunnies at her house and at the moment has 34.
That number is constantly changing and, since Christmas has reduced massively.
Vanessa says: ‘A few weeks ago, I had 51 rabbits which is the most I have ever had.
‘I’m now at 34 so a lot have been rehomed recently. The number I have changes daily.
‘At the moment I’m quite lucky that more of them are being adopted than are being dropped off.
‘That is really nice and important.’
People looking for a new pet contact Vanessa through the Facebook group and can visit her house, sometimes on the same day, to look at the range of rabbits.
‘It is a 24-hour job,’ she adds.
‘People contact me late in the evening and early in the morning so I am constantly in touch with people wanting a bunny.
‘It is all about interaction. I speak to people at length about what they are looking for.
‘If I don’t have exactly what they want, like a baby rabbit, I suggest others like a rabbit which is a few months old. There is a lot of interaction because I want them to be happy with the rabbit but also slightly flexible in what they are after.
‘I am a busy lady but I wouldn’t change that for the world.’
When she started the group three years ago Vanessa was not working but she took up a cleaning job to help pay for the bunnies.
As well as working evenings and looking after the rabbits, she also cares for her four children.
She says: ‘Running the group does keep me busy but I enjoy it. When I started it, I never expected it to grow as much as it has.
‘It just shows how many rabbits are not wanted but also how many people are willing to adopt rescued animals.’
Vanessa started South Coast Rabbit Rescue after a similar rescue service she worked for stopped.
With contacts and people knowing her name, Vanessa decided to start her own rescue scheme.
‘I wanted to do it bigger and better,’ she adds.
‘I wanted to really go for it and make it work. It started out as just a group with a few members but now it has over 1,000.
‘All I have is hutches and a garden but I think people see that I really do care about the rabbits and looking after them properly.
‘People appreciate that and on the Facebook page I am known as a bunny angel or the bunny mummy. I love that people are grateful for the hard work I do.
‘At the end of the day, I just want the rabbits to have a lovely home.’
Vanessa admits that she has been learning as she goes along but says that is part of the enjoyment.
‘I don’t know everything about rabbits,’ she says.
‘I have had to learn as I go but I know enough about them to help people pick and decide.
‘The different types of breeds I know quite well but every day I learn something new.
LOTS TO LEARN ABOUT RABBITS
LOOKING to the future, Vanessa Taylor wants to see people learning more about rabbits before having them as pets.
The founder of South Coast Rabbit Rescue says her aim for the year is to teach people about bunnies.
She says not a lot of people know they can live up to 14 years.
‘People assume rabbits only live a couple of years but some can have the lifespan of a dog,’ she says.
‘Parents getting them for their children is fine as long as they realise they are hard work.
‘My aim for this year is to inform people about how to care for rabbits so fewer people need them rehomed.’
To help get her message out, Vanessa is looking forward to two big events in Portsmouth.
She has been invited to the May Day Fair in Fratton, and the Portsmouth Summer Show in Cosham.
Vanessa attended the May Day Fair at St Mary’s Church, off Fratton Road, last year and loved it.
Visitors were given the chance to hold the rabbits and six were adopted.
Similar success is hoped to happen again this year.
‘I’m really excited to be attending the May Day Fair again,’ said the 40-year-old.
‘And then to find out we were invited to the Portsmouth Summer Show was fantastic.’
The Portsmouth Summer Show, held on King George V playing fields, will have performances from Scouting for Girls, Union J and dance group Diversity.
Last year’s show had 15,000 people attend with this year expected to be even bigger.
Vanessa adds: ‘To be invited to a show that big is fantastic.
‘They found us and liked what we did so wanted us to be there.
‘It was a total shock when they got in touch.’
As well as attending the shows, Vanessa also wants to see the service expand to cover more of the south coast.