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Saving Luna: A Case Study on Rabbit Aggression. Presented by Emily Cassell

  • Monday, August 29, 2022
  • 11:30 PM
  • Tuesday, August 30, 2022
  • 12:30 AM
  • GoToWebinar

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CEUs: PPAB 1, CCPDT (pending), IAABC (pending), KPA (pending)

Emily came across a desperate post in a local rabbit rescue Facebook group, begging someone to take a beautiful rabbit who was scheduled to be euthanized the next day for aggression. She instantly responded to take the case pro bono and would work with anyone who took on this bunny. Shortly after, Emily received a friend request from the person who was dropping everything to pick up Luna, and they immediately got to work. As Emily watched Luna throw herself, growling and snarling, at the fence separating them, she wondered if she had bitten off more than she could chew!

Luna's aggression is more severe than any case Emily had experienced in her career working with rabbits. Luna's triggers ranged from everything to the sound of a person approaching to the appearance of food falling into her pen. Anything associated with human interaction was met with a flying leap, a growl, and a fierce bite. While Luna's clear stress and discomfort were a main focus of their efforts, Emily was equally concerned with giving Luna's humans the tools to manage her safely, without (any more) bloodshed! Carefully managing Luna's triggers, mindful counterconditioning, and enrichment were the tools we used to gradually build trust. Luna began to relax, and so could everyone around her!

Luna's story is not just her own, but the story of many rabbits who are euthanized in shelters for behavior issues. Rabbits whose issues are often created by the environment. This presentation will be useful to anyone who cares for rabbits in any capacity.

Learning Objectives

  • The importance of stress management in aggression cases

  • Minimizing triggers in an environment where everything seems to be a trigger

  • Developing safe ways to interact with and care for an extremely over-threshold animal

  • Direct juxtaposition of force-free strategies and force-based common methods in handling rabbit aggression

  • Managing learned aggression in bunnies

About Your Presenter    


Emily Cassell

Emily earned her BS in Animal Science, with a specialization in Equine Science, from the University of Florida. Since 2010, she has been providing professional behavior assistance to pets and their people. She completed two internships, one at ZooTampa working primarily with Florida Manatees, and one at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, working with dolphins, otters, and pelicans. While in school, she worked with Class Act for Dogs, in Gainesville, Florida, under Dee Zurberg, an accomplished trainer who emphasized not only kindness to dogs, but kindness to their people as well. Since then, she has continued her career in the zoo field working with a variety of species including tigers, otters, Flying foxes, gibbons, and as well as various avian, aquatic, and reptile species. Her main focus, however, is caring for orangutans. While not working at the zoo, she has spent years working with dogs as a group class instructor and behavior consultant at Courteous Canine, Inc. This led her to create Small Animal Resources, a place for guardians of small pets to find accurate, reliable information and to highlight the behavioral needs of small mammals. She has published articles for the Pet Professional Guild and the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants on various topics related to rabbit care and behavior. She has presented at various conferences, workshops, and webinars, for both the Pet Professional Guild, the Animal Behavior Management Alliance, and the Florida Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

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