CYPRESS : Pro-Rabbit Forces Hopping With Joy

After weeks of arguments, the City Council has decided that the floppy-eared rabbits that irritated residents by snacking on their lawns but at the same time won the hearts of animal lovers can finally call Nature Park home.

The City Council this week rejected a recommendation to turn the bunnies over to the local Humane Society. Instead, after listening to emotional testimony from pro-rabbit forces, the council decided to let the animals run free.

"I would think that Cypress could afford to take care of these rabbits," said resident Jack Swank, who presented a petition to the City Coouncil that he said bore the signatures of about 700 residents.

Added Ted Hill, another rabbit proponent: "We get all tied up with big buildings. We forget that there is a lot that Mother Nature can teach us."

Councilwoman Margaret M. Arnold cast the sole dissenting vote against the rabbits. She said the park is not a safe place for the animals, and that the city's decision amounts to "leaving them to cats and dogs who will destroy them."

The fate of the rabbits, many of them abandoned Easter presents, has become the talk of the town. Last month, in response to complaints from neighbors who live near Nature Park, the Public Works Department tried to capture the animals. However, the department was thwarted by a disgruntled animal lover who stole the city's lone trap.

Earlier this month, to placate people on both sides of the issue, the council decided to fix the fence in Nature Park in an effort to keep the stray rabbits away from the lawns of residents. The city also refused to send the rabbits to Orange County Animal Control to be destroyed.

This week, in a review of its earlier decision, the council agreed to let the rabbits stay in the park. "The bunny issue is resolved," declared Mayor Cecilia L. Age.

However, this may not be the last word about the rabbits. If the 30 or so rabbits--notorious for their ability to reproduce--are left in the confined area, hundreds may result.

"If there are too many rabbits (the policy) will have to come back" before the council, Councilwoman Gail H. Kerry said. Some baby rabbits have already been discovered, city officials added.

Age suggested advertising the availability of the rabbits around Easter or starting adopt-a-rabbit programs at local schools.

In the meantime, a sign will be posted to advise people of the proper food to feed the rabbits and city workers will continue to herd wandering bunnies back inside the park.

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