Bunny paradise

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PANTON, Vt. A couple in Addison County has created a rabbit sanctuary in their backyard.

They get several calls a week from families who have bought fluffy baby bunnies. But, those rabbits get older and are more work to take care of than families expect.

Channel 3's Neliana Ferraro stopped by Panton, Vt. to find out why Fluffy Bunny Rabbit Sanctuary is so different from a traditional animal shelter.

Jessie Jerry and John Diegel started out rescuing a bunny named Sugar Cookie. They soon took in another so Sugar Cookie could have a friend.

"And then they kind of kept coming because people would say, 'You have one rabbit, how about another one? This one needs a good home,'" Jerry said.

In January, The Fluffy Bunny Rabbit Sanctuary was born. Under Vermont law, rabbits are technically considered livestock. So, Jerry and Diegel didn't have to go through the same process that a dog or cat rescue would go through. But for this couple, the buns are so much more than livestock.

"They're snuggly like cats can be. They have personalities like dogs," Jerry said. "Once you give them some space and some attention, they just come alive."

Diegel has created a mini paradise for the rabbits, turning old tubes into tunnels and a wine holder into a cute bridge over a moat.

"He's really good at just finding bits and pieces of stuff and making a vision come to life," Jerry said. She said the haven has more space than a traditional animal shelter could provide. She wants to help the bunnies put their best paw forward.

"When they're scared, they aren't as friendly as they could be. So, having barking dogs around as a shelter freaks them out, and the rabbits don't present as well to a potential adoptee."

Because the couple pays out of pocket, they have to keep a strict cap on the number of buns they can accept, forcing them to turn away many families. Jerry said they're hoping to expand the sanctuary so they can help find more rabbits new homes to hop in.

Jerry said it will be another two to three years until the IRS will officially recognize the sanctuary as a non-profit organization. While the couple accepts donations, Jerry also sells homemade earrings out of Linda's Apparel in Vergennes to help support the sanctuary.