OKLAHOMA CITY - It's an issue that animal rescue organizations deal with every single year, and residents in one Oklahoma City neighborhood got a firsthand look at the problem.
“This was one of their favorite haunts,” said Oklahoma City resident David Lessmann. "You'll see one of the carrots."
Around Easter, Lessmann remembers seeing two bunnies hop into his backyard in northwest Oklahoma City.
"People from around the neighborhood started knocking on neighbors' doors because they had sightings,” Lessmann said.
No one claimed the bunnies, so neighbors started feeding them. Lessmann saw other rabbits, but they've since gone missing.
He says there is no doubt in his mind these were domesticated rabbits.
"I mean, I've seen native rabbits before. When you see an Easter commercial, these are the rabbits they use,” he said.
Earlier this week, a neighbor called the Heartland Rabbit Rescue about two rabbits they feared wouldn't survive in the wild much longer.
“We guess they live 24 hours if they're lucky,” said Jeannie Patterson, owner of Heartland Rabbit Rescue.
Right now, a little hare is in critical condition with ear mites and respiratory issues.
Patterson's rescue is currently caring for about 80 domesticated rabbits, many of whom were abandoned.
“We get a lot of calls from people that find a rabbit that's been dumped where no one in that neighborhood has a rabbit,” Patterson said.
She says part of the problem is that some families want their own Easter bunny.
“They consider it a family tradition to get a baby animal, and have the Easter egg hunt and all of that, and then dispose of the animal they no longer want,” she said.
Before you buy an animal, do your research because they are much different than a dog or a cat.
Patterson suggests visiting rabbit.org before you choose a pet rabbit for your household.
When cared for properly, she said they'll make a "hop-py" family member.
“They're very unique," Patterson said. "They make you laugh. They're fun loving."
It is against the law to dump an animal and carries a penalty, as well as possible jail time.
The goal for Heartland Rabbit Rescue is to get the healthy rabbits into good homes.
If you'd like more information or to donate, visit heartlandrabbitrescue.org.