In the middle of a normal residential area, Liesbeth Zonjee (61) has had a rabbit shelter in her garden for 15 years. She takes care of some 50 rabbits with a number of volunteers. But due to complaints, the future is now uncertain.
The house in the Sint Otgeruslaan of Liesbeth Zonjee is not hard to find. In front of the door is a car from the KonijnenOpvang Franky foundation, on the window of her house there is window foil of rabbits and in the windowsill you see stuffed animals and statuettes of rabbits. The rabbit cages are at the very back of the garden. The smell of rabbits immediately meets you, but it does not stink. A volunteer is busy cleaning the cages and Zonjee talks about her rabbits. “Rabbits are very intelligent animals, people often don’t know that. For example, my first rabbit discovered the cat flap after he saw my cat walk through it. I was so pleased to see that.”
A local resident has filed a complaint with the municipality against Liesbeth Zonjee for pests and noise. The fences would also be too high. Zonjee: “It is her right to find this. But fun is different. I await the judgment and I will continue until that time. I want to continue at least until I am 70 and then gradually reduce but if I can no longer do it in my own garden, I think it’s good too. I don’t do it for myself but for the rabbits.”
Liesbeth Zonjee has always been busy with pets: she had a dog, cats and rabbits. She found out that there were only three rabbit shelters throughout the Netherlands and decided to set up one herself. “People often buy rabbits without preparing properly. If a rabbit is ‘awkward’ or people are fed up with a rabbit, they soon dump it. People underestimate taking care of a rabbit. What many people don’t know is that you always have to have two rabbits, one male and one female.”
Liesbeth Zonjee went to Trudo housing association 15 years ago with her plan to set up a rabbit shelter. Trudo actually agreed immediately and that’s how she got started. She started with the construction of cages and that is how the KonijnenOpvang Franky foundation, named after her first own rabbit Franky, was born. She has been working all by herself until, only after seven years, the first volunteer came to help. A neighbor from a few houses away. Seven volunteers are now working to steer everything in the right direction.
For the time being, the rabbit shelter will continue to exist and Liesbeth Zonjee will continue to care for abandoned rabbits.