The manager at the Gander and Area SPCA is sharing horror stories of abandoned pet rabbits and a ferret being left in the wild and urging people to take pet ownership seriously.
"As harsh as this may seem, they were better off euthanizing these rabbits instead of letting them go in the wild. One in particular came in and we took at least 50 ticks off this poor thing," said Bonnie Harris.
"[The animals] depend on you for food, putting them out into an environment that they're not familiar with is cruel."
Harris said this year is "one of the worst" with eight rabbits being abandoned so far, while normally the organization only sees one or two.
She said she is convinced the pets are not lost or have simply escaped, because the SPCA has advertised the animals are at the shelter but nobody has claimed them.
'Not a toy'
Harris puts the blame on "irresponsible owners."
"Getting a rabbit thinking it's a cute little critter to have and not realizing the commitment you have to put into them. You know they require a lot of work," she told CBC's Central Morning Show.
"I would assume it's a lot like cats — people get them as cute little kittens and not being responsible and realizing they require the care they do and they need to be vet-checked and vaccinated and spayed and neutered and [people] just get tired of them and [then it's] out the door."
A ferret recently suffered the same fate, according to Harris. The cage, which Harris said was filthy, was found near the animal in the woods.
She worries about more animals being abandoned as the temperature drops.
There is a space-crunch in the current shelter as the group waits for the Town of Gander to clear land for a new, larger shelter.
In the meantime, Harris said people are helping to foster the animals for now until they find new owners — who Harris hopes will keep the level of commitment in mind before adding a pet to the family.
"Rabbits, they are not a toy, they are a living breathing creature ... And [some think], 'What are we going to do with it? Oh let's just throw it outdoors.'"