Board of Directors
Debbie (DJ) Mans, Owner and CEO
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.
Kimberly Joy Drake, Vice President and Co-Owner
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
Tara Aldrich, Treasurer
I have always been a cat person, but always wanted to have a rabbit. In 2016, I got my first rabbit Griffin. He was listed on Facebook because someone in the home had allergies. After talking my husband into it, he agreed that we could welcome Griffin into our home. When I brought Griffin home, I researched all about caring for a rabbit so I could give him the best life possible.
I found a hoppy hour for rabbits where Griffin could run around and get his nails trimmed. I took in a foster with another rescue and Griffin seemed very interested in her. One day in 2019, I came across Rabbit Rescue of MN website and saw they offered Romp and Spas closer to my home, so I thought I’d check it out. After attending a few, I inquired about volunteering. I was initially a Bunny Bouncer at romps and eventually started fostering, helping to capture dumped rabbits, and attending other events. I realized Griffin enjoyed being around other rabbits and decided he needed a mate. I adopted another rabbit through RRMN and that was the best decision; he and his mate are a perfect match.
I am so grateful I found Rabbit Rescue of MN and have the opportunity to give back. I have made wonderful friends and have learned so much from both our volunteers and the vets I have met along the way. My favorite parts of being involved with the rescue are having the opportunity to educate rabbit and non-rabbit owners, and meeting so many adorable rabbits.
Dr. Heather Douglas, Rescue Partner Veterinarian
I started working with Rabbit Rescue of Minnesota in May 2021. Since that time, RRMN has inspired me to continually find better ways to serve my rabbit patients. They’ve created an environment where I am excited to learn about up-and-coming veterinary treatments and am encouraged to delve deeper into rabbit veterinary medicine. RRMN cares deeply about rabbits and is committed to caring for all rabbits in need, including those that have been dumped and left behind. That’s a powerful motivator to my team at Douglas Animal Hospital and me to always do our best for them.
In addition to working with RRMN, I own Douglas Animal Hospital which is a small animal and exotic practice, I teach the capstone course in graduate studies for the MBA program at St. George’s University and am the executive director and founder of GrenVet Island Veterinary Services.
In my free time I love to ride my bike and travel as much as possible.
Lisa Hopper, Surrender Coordinator
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.
Jason Janke, Fundraising/Event Lead
My bunny story started about a year and a half ago when my wife Santina came to me and asked if we could get a bunny. I was adamant that there was no way we were ever getting a bunny. My decision was mostly based on having cats before and assumed it would be the same experience. So, I continued for a little over a month with the “no bunnies” until I saw it was really something Santina wanted and it wasn’t an impulse.
November of 2020, we picked up Dash (pictured) our Holland Lop. I knew within about a month that things would never be the same. I fell head over heals for this little man and two months later we picked up his girlfriend Violet. They were instant best friends and bonded. So, with all the love Dash and Violet gave us we added three siblings to our bunny family with three Mini Plush Lops - Snow, Storm and Charlie. These three taught us everything we now know about bunnies from simple bonding, bunny bumps, binky, acts of mischief, a trip to the ER for stiches and everything in between.
Over the last year, we spent most of our weekends renovating our house into a home for bunnies. It started with one hutch in a corner and expanded to about 2000 sq ft of bunny proofed play grounds and two outside fenced-in running areas. Early on when we just had Dash and Violet, I joined every Facebook group I could find. This was one of my ways of getting as much information on bunnies as I could. I was so afraid that we were in over our heads and something was going to happen to them (safe areas, healthy treats, hay, grooming, etc.). Fast forward to about May 2021 and I started seeing posts of bunnies that were not being cared for properly, rescues finding dumped bunnies, and rescues being overwhelmed with too many bunnies. We chose to donate to multiple rescues instead of fostering because we didn't have the space to foster. That changed when one day RRMN posted that a family had to surrender two bunnies; we knew we were meant to foster them. After being accepted as new fosters, we went to work on renovating our house again to make room for them.
Based on my experiences fostering and helping RRMN in every way I know how, I can confidently say that this team of volunteers is made up of the most selfless individuals I’ve ever known. I am so exited for this next chapter and honored that I get to be this close to making a difference for the little ones with no voice.
Nicole Oetjen, Website Management
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.
Angie Schilling, Merchandise Design/Fundraising
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.