MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Every year, thousands of pets are abandoned across the state for a variety of reasons. While we often hear about the dogs and cats that need homes, there are other animals, such as rabbits, available for adoption as well.
You wouldn't guess that the late 19th century Victorian house near downtown Martinsburg is home to 18 special needs rabbits. Gretta Parker created the shelter, named the Flopsy Parker Memorial Sanctuary, in honor of one very special rabbit.
"In 2010 I adopted a little bunny from a local county shelter in North Carolina, his name was Flopsy, and he was my first bunny," Parker said.
"I didn't realize at the time that there was such a need and how many rabbits are abandoned after Easter because they tend to be bought as babies for Easter and then by fall their care needs increase and they end up in shelters."
Parker went to the North Carolina shelter intending to only make a donation after seeing a story on the television news the night before about how many Easter rabbits end up abandoned when they get older.
"I saw [Flopsy] and it was love at first site," she said. "He was so beautiful and he was personality, he had a lot of personality. But I thought he was so unique looking and just beautiful and he changed my life."
In an effort to raise awareness of rabbit abandonment issues, Parker started a Facebook page for Flopsy. She says the Facebook page became so popular that when Flopsy died about a year later there were so many visitors the page crashed and she received almost 3,000 email messages.
Parker grieved by writing her first book, "The Easter Bunny That Grew Up".
"And it's his true story and our true story," Parker said. "In the book it talks about rabbits that are abandoned after Easter and kind of teaches parents and children not only a story about animals but really what happens and how important adoption is."
Parker's second book, "The $7.50 Bunny That Changed the World," was a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the categories of animals and children's nonfiction. Parker uses proceeds from the book sales to operate her nonprofit, Baskets for Bunnies, and the shelter for abandoned special needs rabbits. She enjoys showing visitors through the shelter and introducing the bunnies.
"This here is Snicklefritz, and as cliche as it sounds, Snicklefritz actually used to be a magician's rabbit and he is an elder bunny," she said as she stood by a fenced-in area housing a 12-year-old white rabbit that also served as a teaching bunny at an autistic school.
Snicklefritz shares the basement of Parker's house with and assortment of 16 other rabbits from all over the country that vary in size, shape and handicap.
There's Charlotte, who lost a hind leg, Stanley who liked to bite, Mercedes who had problems with her stomach and teeth, and Kirby, the bunny with a splayed leg that sticks out. The newest resident currently lives upstairs with Parker.
"And this is Munson, he just came from Connecticut," Parker said, introducing a fragile-looking dark grey rabbit with distinctive white rings around his eyes, under his nose and along his chin. Munson was turned loose in a parking lot in New Jersey.