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Board of Directors

Debbie (DJ) Mans, Owner and CEO

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I was volunteering at an animal shelter when a beautiful grey Mini Rex was dropped off in a tiny cage outside the door. Day after day I saw him sitting alone and looking defeated. Fast forward; he came home with me and I went to work researching and learning everything I could about caring for a domestic rabbit.... I had much to learn. My boy Duke quickly became the furry love of my life and inspired me to do all I could for this beautiful species.

 

When I’m not rescuing and rehabbing rabbits, I enjoy spending time with my amazing husband and four adult children.

 

My goal when starting this rescue was to take in the neglected, abandoned, unwanted and sick rabbits that otherwise wouldn’t have a chance and to educate new rabbit families on proper rabbit care and housing. Duke has since gone to “the rainbow bridge” but he is our rescue ambassador and I am grateful to him for showing me the way.

Stephanie Verdoorn, Owner and CFO

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I was made aware of domestic rabbits as pets when my kids became interested in having one as a pet.  Wow, there was a lot to learn!  I jumped in feet first and in the process met DJ. I was excited to join her on her journey in starting a rabbit rescue here in MN that would service the community by educating about domestic rabbits and taking in individual surrendered, stray captures, etc.

I currently serve the rescue and it’s fosters by managing the financial side of the rescue.  Don’t worry, I get my furry fix by attending events and helping with some hands on events as well!

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Vivian Backmann

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As a mother of 6, full-time Realtor, and business owner, I have found my life’s work in rescue to be one of the single biggest joys of my life outside of the birth of my children. My life of rescue began by happenstance. We ended up with our first Holland Lop rabbit Milo in 2013 via my oldest daughter. We knew very little about rabbits at that time. Our sweet boy patiently lived his first 6 months in our care, in far from “ideal” conditions, as we stumbled through the learning curve of the proper care and feeding elements of a house rabbit. Much to my chagrin I realized I was so far out of my element and needed to learn more, FAST. Each milestone of discoveries -enclosure size, nutrition, grooming, medical care and social needs, brought me into so many self-realizations of inadequacy. I had so much to learn.

I discovered the “underground world” of bunny advocates and educators through a scare that we would lose our sweet boy to an illness I knew nothing about. After one Google search after another, I stumbled across an abundance of bunny savvy individuals, wanting nothing but the best for my family and fur baby. This network is where my friendships began to form with other rabbit owners and educators across the world.  I learned so much in a very quick amount of time. There was so much to learn and so many things I wanted to change about my sweet bunny’s life! And that I did!

After becoming a walking bunny book of knowledge, I started taking notice of all the rescues needing help.  My life in rescue started with simple conversations with my now dear friend Stacey Taylor, from Bunnies Matter in Vegas Too, a non-profit out of Las Vegas, NV.  The amount of help their rescue needed was exorbitant. For several years I helped support the Vegas rescue efforts by flying out there to physically help.  When unable to be there physically I would provide financial help. I am proud to say I was part of one of the largest rabbit rescue site clean-up efforts in the US of over 1000 rabbits.  To this day it was, hands down, the most rewarding humanitarian effort I have been a part of in my lifetime.

I took a hiatus from my travel assisting the Las Vegas site to focus heavily on my career. During this time I ran into two amazing women online who shared the same passion of rabbit rescue and education that I did, one of which is a key founder of Rabbit Rescue of MN -Debbie Mans. After taking part in several rescues, (for example Teddy who was being bred for his fur, JJ who was abandoned in a hotel in Fargo, and Cornelius Jones (aka Shay) who was found outside with frostbite in Superior WI during the polar vortex of 2018), I became more aware that the need for help in rescue was right in my back yard.

Much like the desire to help the Las Vegas crew, I felt compelled and gravitated to the efforts of what is now known as the Rabbit Rescue of MN.  My intent was much like my rescue partners in the beginning, to care for my own rabbits (Milo – who is our original fur kid, Willow – his bonded bun wife who was a 3 time dump at a local shelter, Peanut – our sweet Las Vegas dumpsite girl we rescued from Vegas during one of my trips, and her trouble making former Vegas girl - Lady) and help where I could.  I am blessed to say I now foster and rescue with RRMN where I have made more friends than I could every ask for. 

I am proud and blessed to be a part of such a humanitarian group of individuals who advocate for displaced & injured bunnies and to share my desire to do great things with my youngest daughter Alexa. My family and I go out of our way to support the efforts of the rescue, and are active fosters, who care for and support the revolving door of rags to riches bunny stories. I find tremendous joy in finding homes for humans and my fur kid fosters! Thank you to all of my friends and family who support and stand behind me in my passion for rabbit rescue! I am eternally grateful!

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Delaney Berrini

"Back in the 80s and early 90s, my siblings and I had bunnies that lived in a backyard hutch our dad made. We didn't know any better. We loved these bunnies but were clueless as to what they needed or why they were so unhappy. We were told they were bred to be out in the cold. We would play with them but they'd always go back in the hutch. I longed to have a closer relationship with my bunny but didn't know that hutch life was not just unsafe and unhealthy, but miserable for them. We didn't know that bunnies have very sweet personalities and hutch life prevents you from seeing that."

 

In college, Delaney adopted her first house bunny, Lloyd, advertised as 'free' in the newspaper. He lived with her in her dorm room, eating her books and furniture. Although Lloyd was a house bunny and living indoors, as a domestic bunny should, she still didn't didn't know what a lot of his needs were. "Back then, we didn't know that bunnies needed hay 24 hours a day, things to chew to keep their teeth intact, or how specific their diets are." 

 

"I think back and feel sadness for those bunnies, and for my own ignorance. It fuels my passion for helping unwanted or neglected rabbits, and makes me want to do better for my own rabbits and those we can help. Rabbits are such joyful, quirky animals when their emotional and physical needs are met." 

 

Delaney began transporting and fostering for RRMN in September of 2018. The more she got involved with the rescue, the more she wanted to do. "What is special about RRMN is of course its devotion to unwanted rabbits and its desire to educate the public, but also its heart for people. When I met DJ and Steph, although I had house rabbits, there was so much I didn't know and they didn't fault me for it; they just showed me. The closer I got to the people, the more I wanted to do."

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Kimberly Joy Drake

I came upon Rabbit Rescue of Minnesota long before there even was such a thing. There were dumped rabbits who were in need of immediate help in Southern Minnesota. When I went to calls like this, it was most often me alone. And I’d leave with another rabbit. Or 2 or 3. Or 10 (Joking! Although it felt that way sometimes). But not this time. We got the rabbits and they were off to warmth, safety and good medical attention with people who cared about them as much as anyone could. It was odd to watch them leave as I left empty handed. That was a first. And I didn’t even worry! Prior to  RRMN, I knew of no other rescue who actively took in abandoned and neglected animals from the public. Not without someone to surrender them, anyway. These guys were all alone. We were all they had. And they were safe. I found my place (just like the rabbits did!).

That was about 200 rabbits ago. It’s been a long road, but through its trials, victories, hardships, joys and pains, I become more and more proud of this organization. RRMN is unique in the respect that there is no other place like it. From meat farm rabbits to rabbits dumped in fields and everything in between, the most ill-fated and seemingly hopeless always stand a chance with RRMN. There are no conditions on our rabbits; our main goal is to save as many as possible and treat them with the care, loyalty and compassion they’ve been denied. And that’s what will forever keep me attached to this rescue.

My mission is to ensure the most medically and behaviorally challenged rabbits receive the best life possible. I very sincerely believe in our vision, our process, our fosters, our veterinarians, our supporters, our future and above all, I believe in our rabbits. They’re why we are here, plain and simple

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Lisa Hopper

I was first introduced to rabbits when I received my pet rabbit, Cotton, as a Christmas present at the age of five. Long story short, my family and I were extremely ignorant on proper rabbit care and we definitely learned the hard way that rabbits are extremely complex and fragile animals requiring specialized care.  After about 3 years of rabbit ownership as a child, my parents made the decision that our family could no longer have rabbits because we were not equipped to provide the necessary care that rabbits require.

Fast forward to my teenage years.  There was nothing I wanted more than another rabbit.  I felt so bad for the improper care that I provided my rabbits with as a young child and I wanted to make up for past mistakes.  I bought books, did LOTS of research, and located rabbit savvy vets in my area.  The exciting day arrived when I adopted my sweet boy Leland.  I was so proud of myself when I brought Leland in for his first wellness check a couple days after I adopted him; it was something I had never done with my rabbits as a young child. He had a clean bill of health, but a few days later he suddenly developed bloat. After a week and a half of emergency vet visits, regular vet visits, IV fluids, syringe feeding, and medicating, Leland passed.  I was crushed.  Here I was trying to do everything right, and I lost him after just 2 short weeks. 

After several months of mourning the loss of Leland, I decided to try one more time. I did even more research before adopting Lucky from the humane society. Lucky was a very special bun.  There was just one problem, Lucky refused to eat hay in any way, shape, or form, which resulted in him having chronic dental issues his entire life.  It was Lucky who got me interested in specialty rabbit care, rabbit diseases, and treatments.  They are indeed fascinating and intricate creatures!   

In 2008 I adopted Chip.  He was abandoned in the wild and had survived a predator attack, which left him with an injured face.  This 3 pound bundle of fluff was by my side for 10 wonderful years.  He was in my senior photos, helped me through all the stresses of college, and was my snuggle-buddy in the evenings when grading papers during my first years of teaching. He passed at the ripe old age of 11. 

After the passing of my senior bun Chip, I knew I was in need of another rabbit in my life.  That’s when I found my bunny, Jerry, through Rabbit Rescue of Minnesota.  I remember being so impressed by the thoroughness of the adoption process.  It was very evident that these volunteers loved their rescue rabbits and wanted the VERY BEST for them.  When I found out that Jerry’s brother Tom was still in rescue, I made it my mission to adopt him and rebond the dynamic duo.  Again, I was so impressed by the support offered from many of the volunteers at RRMN.  Their compassion and drive inspired me to want to do more.  It is such a blessing getting to help bunnies on their journey to find their forever home. 
       

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Nicole Oetjen

Nicole has cared for rabbits for most of her life.  She got her first rabbit, Tato, from the Robbinsdale Farm and Garden Store when she was about four.  Growing up, her parents couldn't say no to friends and neighbors that could no longer care for their rabbits, cats, or dogs.  This was how Nicole got another rabbit when she was about six.  Family friends developed allergies to their rabbits Dandy and Cocoa.  Dandy became Nicole's responsibility because she was the only one that could pet him.  She cared for him the best she knew how, but was uneducated about dietary, exercise, and health needs for companion rabbits. 

 

It wasn't until adopting Juliette, a dwarf hotot rescued from a foreclosed home where she had been abandoned, that she learned how to properly care for a rabbit.  She also learned how to identify the symptoms of stasis, a condition that ended the life of Cocoa because the she and her parents didn't know it existed.  This learning reinforced the need to educate rabbit owners about the proper care, needs, and symptoms of illness.    

Nicole is a part of Rabbit Rescue of Minnesota because it meets a previously unmet need; a place where medical, special needs, or under socialized rabbits can be directly surrendered with the knowledge that the rescue will do everything in its power to help them heal.  Nicole enjoys using her time and abilities (for example, maintaining the website) to ensure the success of RRMN.  She is also a bunny foster. 

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Angie Schilling

My family has supported animal rescues since I was a kid. We still reminisce over my childhood dog Rosie, whom we adopted when I was in the 4th grade. (She lived till I was nearly 19 years old.) As an adult, I continued to be involved with various rescues, supporting those my parents adopted animals from.

 

It wasn’t until about 2013 when my love of rabbits began. As a kid, I always wanted a rabbit and the opportunity to adopt came when I spotted a little Netherland on Petfinder who had been dumped outside of a shelter. I fell in love with Holly, but sadly she died four months later in spay surgery. Merida entered my life a month later after spending 9 months in rescue. She was sassy and had a big personality, but was hesitant to connect with me as her previous family had neglected to socialize her; they surrendered her at the age of 3. During our 4 years together, I began volunteering for different rescues to help meet people in the areas I was teaching, and to be more active in the community.

 

In the winter of 2017, my journey as a foster began. I wasn't planning to foster rabbits, but I came across a plea on Facebook for help wrangling a couple of young bunnies in Owatonna. Oddly, they looked familiar. The previous spring, a friend had called me asking to check out a couple of rabbits who were loose near the Somali temple. Nine months later, Balto and Eira were just trying to survive the frigid winter temperatures and were believed to be the offspring of the two I had been called about. Feeling guilty about not being able to help their parents so many months before, I offered to foster the two little ones as consolation. Seeing the passion and support of this rescue’s leaders and volunteers has kept me volunteering and supporting RRMN’s mission.

 

I have welcomed many foster rabbits into my home and into my heart. Two rabbits have stoles my heart and I am so happy to have Nigel and Rosalind as a permanent part of my life. The people who are involved with RRMN not only help support so many homeless, neglected and abused rabbits, but also provide education about how rabbits make such wonderful pets and family members. We are sad to see a foster move forward with a family, yet are cheering for them when that adoption application comes through. We mourn the ones who come to us so ill and don't make it long. We go out of our way to make even the smallest amount of room for a neglected bunny, full of mats and needing some TLC. It takes a village to help rescue animals, and RRMN has given me the opportunity to learn more about rabbit care and to grow a fundraising business to help provide funding for supplies and veterinary care. I appreciate the opportunity to use my small business to fundraise for RRMN. My Best Friend Has 4 Paws will keep working to help our intakes.

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Cara Williams

"I first became involved with Rabbit Rescue of MN after relocating to Minnesota from Buffalo, NY.  My husband and I had our first companion bunny for eight wonderful years, but after he passed, our lives felt incomplete. 

 

We adopted a bonded pair through RRMN in November 2018.  The bunnies' stories all stuck with us, but this particular pair just felt 'right.'

 

After that, we began attending Romp and Spa events to continue socializing our new buns.  We realized immediately just how warm, welcoming, and amazing the people of RRMN are!  We wanted to do more to help bunnies in need, so we started to volunteer at events.  

 

Soon after that, we decided to open our home to bunnies in need of fostering.  We knew we could provide the love, stability, and kindness so desperately needed before they transitioned to their furever homes. 

 

RRMN is truly a one-of-a-kind rescue!  We take in so many unique bunnies - many with significant medical or behavioral needs.  Regardless of each bun's past, we are dedicated to giving them the best care and best quality of life possible.  We believe that every bunny deserves unconditional love, a safe home, and the opportunity to just be themselves!  We're always looking for ways to help more bunnies, and I'm truly honored to be part of this organization!"