Try the fricassee: The Dallas Zoo is letting children pet baby chicks before the birdies are gassed and used for their intended purpose--food for bigger animals. (See "Chick Fillet," February 15.)

This is widely regarded as reprehensible.

Now PETCO, the national pet-supply retailer, is selling rabbits at some of its stores despite a 7-year-old promise to rabbit rescue organizations that the chain wouldn't do that anymore.

Rabbit adoption groups are not happy.

The latest hubbub concerns a 1994 letter from a PETCO vice president to rabbit rescuers that stated simply, "OK. No more rabbits for sale at PETCO." The company changed its mind last summer at some of its stores after repeated customer requests for the animals, says Terri Gunn, PETCO regional coordinator for the area that includes Texas.

Rabbit adoption groups say that the pet bunny population already is too large (surprise!) and that too many rabbits are ending up abandoned in the wild or in sanctuaries, taken from people unprepared to care for them. PETCO's sales merely exacerbate the problem.

"We feel that rabbits are good companion animals, but we don't want them to be seen as disposable," says Gina Scherffius, a member of the House Rabbit Resource Network in Austin and a recipient of the no-bunnies letter. "They can be wonderful pets if you're prepared to give them the support they need."

A domesticated rabbit set free in the wild, she says, lacks survival instincts and generally ends up leading a short "miserable life and pretty horrible death."

Not if PETCO can help it, Gunn says. The store has offered to work with rabbit sanctuaries to help adopt pets and has set up seminars on proper care but has received little response, she says.

"We always encourage any rescue come into our stores to adopt out," Gunn says. No luck so far with bunnies, which are on sale at four stores in the Dallas area. (These are sizable rabbits that sell for $34.99, not the typical Easter specials.)

Now, maybe Buzz is heartless (maybe, he says), but is it possible that both PETCO and the rabbit friends are overlooking a simple solution to the rabbit population problem--one that involves a good drenching in flour and a hot skillet? Is it just us, or has the concept of livestock become a little fuzzy around the edges lately? In Buzz's poor boyhood mining town, chickens and rabbits were described with two words: good eatin'.

We put the question to Scherffius, who, to her credit, did not hang up.

"You wouldn't want to eat your cat after you make friends with it," she says. "We don't eat pets."

Yeah, well, so she says. Frankly, Buzz has a tomcat that's pushing 20 pounds and growing fatter--and more succulent--by the day. Pretty soon, we figure, it's going to be him or us.

(If you are offended by Buzz's modest proposal, we suggest that you check out the North Texas Rabbit Sanctuary's Web site at and see what you can do to help. But don't weigh the rabbit before you adopt it. That's a dead giveaway.)

--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams