A Leighton couple pulled a rabbit out the hat when they decided to set up a hospice catering especially for bunnies.
Rainbow Rabbit Retirement Home is a place for elderly or sick rabbits in Leighton Buzzard.
Married couple Liz and Steve Knight have been running the home for seven years and take in rabbits that are elderly or have health or behavioural problems.
They have no other help and they run it from their home, which Liz describes as a 24-hour job.
Steve works full time and spends his spare time doing vet trips and travels across the country to pick up rabbits, Liz does the daily care for the rabbits and the paperwork for the organisation.
She said: “You get back what you put into it, we are never bored or lonely and there is always something going on to make us smile.”
The couple started Rainbow Rabbits after taking in Hugo, he was their first rabbit with complex needs, caring for him was a learning curve for the couple.
Liz told the LBO: “It taught me that even though a rabbit might not be able to have a normal life, they could still have a good life, if they are understood.
“I wanted to be able to offer that to more rabbits.”
They now have between 25-30 rabbits in their care, there is a limited number of spaces and they have a waiting list, often having to turn rabbits away.
She said: “It is hard to constantly turn rabbits away, especially when they are ill or elderly and we may be their last chance.”
The couple say it is emotionally draining, given the nature of the rabbits they care for, last year they lost 15 rabbits.
“I would say the emotional costs of running Rainbow Rabbits is higher than any financial or physical cost. There is always going to be a lot heartbreak and sadness,” said Liz.
The organisation is self funded and the couple admits that they often go without to pay for the rabbits, in particular, vet fees, food and accommodation.
The name Rainbow Rabbits comes from the idea that some people believe that when animals die, they go to a place called Rainbow Bridge.
With most of their rabbits being elderly or terminally ill, the name seemed appropriate.
Liz said: “We try to give the rabbits in our care a safe, pain free and happy life for the time they have left with us.
“Every rabbit that lives here becomes part of our family and we love them an anyone would love their pet, so continually watching them pass away is really tough.
“But on the flip side, there are some really happy times, seeing a rabbit that has been kept in a three foot hutch its entire life, take its first steps of freedom is amazing.
“Watching a rabbit take its first bite of fresh veg for the first time in years, or seeing a rabbit cuddle up with another bunny for company after spending ten years in solitary confinement is heartwarming. That is what keeps us going through the toughest of times.”
> For more details contact 07446378962 or see www.rainbowrabbits.co.uk