VIRGINIA BEACH — His name matches his heritage, Lord Roland Watson Beldon Maxwell VIII, or simply Junior to his friends.
He hails from the United Kingdom, but his forever home is at Virginia Beach’s The Bunny Hutch.
Once the runt of his litter, Junior, a breed of rabbit known as Continental Giants, now weighs in at 25 pounds.
And, he’s still growing.
“Junior is named after my father,” said Angela Maxwell, the founder and CEO of The Bunny Hutch. “My father loved bunnies. In fact even when I was young, bunnies were allowed in the house, just like a cat or a dog. Very unusual for the late 50s and early 60s. My father was a great humanitarian who felt all life should be treated equally.”
Maxwell honors her father’s legacy through The Bunny Hutch’s work.
Started as a boutique to raise money for animal rescues in the Hampton Roads area, her mission expanded one day when someone dropped off a few snakes in need of a home.
“The rest is history,” Maxwell said. “We began with home-fostering and intern-training out of my house. When the collection of animals grew too numerous we had to find another (location).”
The result? The Bunny Hutch & CLIMATES-Exotic-Animal-Rescue, a three-pronged organization: One part boutique, one part exotic-animal rescue, and one part educational facility.
“Local city-funded shelters are equipped to rescue dogs and cats, but are overburdened by everything else,” Maxwell said. “The Bunny Hutch’s goal is to alleviate this pressure as much as possible.”
To date, Maxwell and her crew have rescued more than 220 animals, and continue to travel around Virginia attending events to teach others about the unique animals in their care.
“I love that animals once cared for, can flourish and bring the outside world into your heart,” Maxwell said.
And Junior does his fair share of the work, too.
“He’s the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Official Easter Bunny and our mascot, but he wasn’t awarded his title because of his size,” Maxwell said. “Instead it was granted to him for his fellowship. Junior is our Ambassador for Children’s Literacy and anti-bullying campaigns. He does story time, educational programming, special needs groups, art galleries, etc.”
Want to meet Junior, or his friends, in-person? You can visit The Bunny Hutch during their normal hours of operation, daily from 1-6 p.m. But before you go, be sure to check their event list or call ahead to make sure Junior will be there during your visit.
For more information on The Bunny Hutch & CLIMATES-Rescue, visit their site.