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Coney Island Rabbit

This runaway rabbit survived 1-1/2 years and two winters under the Coney Island Boardwalk before being rescued on May 27. Photo © Tatyana Leonova


Coney Island was named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch after the wild rabbits that lived here in the 17th century, but for the past 1-1/2 years the only coney left in Coney has been a Californian breed of domestic rabbit living under the boardwalk. A few days ago ATZ received news of its capture from William Leung, whose previous rescue of a rabbit he would name Steeplechase after Coney’s famed park was featured in “Coney Island Bunny Rescued After 21 Days on The Run” (January 18, 2014).

The second bunny who ran off during the bulldozing of the Coney Island Community Garden was rescued on May 27 after surviving for 16 months and two winters under the Coney Island Boardwalk! It’s an amazing story of the compassion and tenacity of both William and Tatyana Leonova, a caretaker of the Boardwalk’s feral cats, who fed the rabbit vegetables as well as the dry food on which it managed to survive through the winters.

Rabbit Trio

William Leung’s Pet Rabbit Trio Duchess, Chad, and Steeplechase, who was rescued in Coney Island in 2014. Photo © Tracy Nuzzo

“It’s been almost a year and half now since Steeplechase was caught and has been living with me,” writes William. “She has bonded with my two little ones as seen in a pic taken a month ago, from left to right: Duchess, Chad, and Steeplechase. But there is another story to tell about Steeplechase’s siblings.” Since the garden was bulldozed in December 2013, William heard there were up to three rabbits in the garden from the time they were babies. In the summer of 2014 he learned of a rabbit sighting in the same general area where Steeplechase was caught and made the trip from his Queens home to investigate.

“But this time of the summer, the grass and brushes were as tall as me, and as I peered through to where the garden used to be, there was no way anything could be seen,” William recalls. “But as luck or fate would have it, Tatyana Leonova, one of the dedicated feral cat care givers passed by and got curious about me poking at the fence. She told me about the sighting of a rabbit running around and said she had been trying to feed it, but didn’t see the rabbit regularly. I asked her if there was a way to trap the rabbit, if they do I will take it.” Tatyana agreed, but as the months passed and winter came to the boardwalk, there was no word.

Coney Island Rabbit

Runaway rabbit dining on vegetables under the Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tatyana Leonova

“When I reached out to Tatyana she said they had not been able to catch the rabbit so I made a trip out in January of 2015 to make an attempt. As soon as food was put down he was in the box eating, he was so hungry in winter cause there was no grass to eat. But as I pulled up the simple trap I had, the rabbit jumped right out and never came back out again.”

“A few more months passed by before an opportunity in between jobs allowed me two weeks off and I started to make attempts to catch the rabbit again. The first day I was able to get it within netting range but I made the mistake of trying to catch it by lifting it up around it instead of over it. Long story short, the net wasn’t big enough and wasn’t positioned right. The net bent under the weight and it got away again. On the second time, I did not see the rabbit.”

“On the third time I went out there, the rabbit was lounging around but out of reach so I decided to set up a live trap. The rabbit was hanging out in an area now that was finally big enough to fit a large size trap through the fence and under a walkway but he didn’t go in to eat the food. So as my vacation ended, I met with the cat caretaker and asked her to help by keep putting food into the the trap so the rabbit would go in to eat from inside and catch it in the act and manually pop the trap.”

Coney Island Rabbit

Coney Island Rabbit finally captured in trap after many failedattempts. Photo © Tatyana Leonova

“After 5 days and still no luck, Tatyana was getting worried as she thought the rabbit seemed sluggish and was sick but there was nothing I could do, as I was out of ideas. But the very next day, on Wednesday night the 27th of May, I got a series of panicked calls that she had caught the rabbit but couldn’t get the trap out thru the fence.” William drove to Coney Island as soon as he could to fish the trap out.

At home, he fenced off the rescued bunny, which has a severe ear mite infestation, from his other rabbits. “Of course, my rabbits were curious, but the first to show interest was Steeplechase! She looked back at me as if to say, what’s this all about? I cannot be sure if she can remember her sibling after a year and half apart, or if that rabbit was even a sibling, though they are both the same breed.”

Coney Island Rabbit

Natalie the Coney Island Rabbit’s first trip to the vet. Photo © William Leung

The next day he met with a rabbit rescue volunteer to get a dose of medicine for the ear mites. “As I didn’t want to handle it too much and infest my rabbits, I waited until Saturday, the vet visiting day, to find out if it was a girl or boy,” says William. “And it’s a girl! I named her Natalie, after Nathan’s hot dogs. The vet couldn’t do a full exam as she was still not used to human touch so for now she is getting some R & R and her future is hopefully to join my warren but my rabbits have the final say.”

Related Posts on ATZ…

May 29, 2015: Pet Day in Coney Island Offers Costume Contest, Rides on Wonder Wheel

January 8, 2014: Bunny Returns to Bulldozed Coney Island Garden, Kitten Euthanized

September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk

April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption

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Steeplechase the Coney Island Bunny

Marcie Frishberg of NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue demonstrates how to pet Steeplechase the Coney Island Bunny at Petco in Union Square. March 15, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Coney Island “coney” named Steeplechase made her Broadway debut at Union Square Petco on Saturday, where rescue group NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue has an adoption center. There are 4 rabbits that reside there but it was Steeplechase’s first appearance. The refugee from the bulldozed Coney Island Community Garden was rescued by William Leung and fellow volunteers in January after 21 days on the run. Since then, Steeplechase has received medical care and been spayed, and is now being fostered by Leung, who already has four companion rabbits at his home in Queens.

Steeple Chase the Coney Island Bunny

Steeplechase the Coney Island Bunny at NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue adoption center in Union Square Petco. March 15, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

ATZ asked Leung how the Coney Island rabbit is getting along with the other bunnies. “She is still a little shy, but loves attention. She has met my rabbits,” he said. “She was eager to make friends but my female rabbits were jealous and don’t like her. My little boy Chad is smitten with her and would dance for her whenever he sees her through the pens. His current girlfriend Duchess knows that and tries to bite her whenever she sees her.”

Rabbits dance for each other?

“They binky. When he sees her, he binkies all over the place,” explains Leung.

Binky? Okay, so we had to look up the word! Here’s some Bunny Binky Action courtesy of YouTube user Kate Midkiff…

Coney Island was named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch after the wild rabbits that lived here in the 17th century. But Steeplechase, a white bunny with black ears, is a Californian breed of domestic rabbit and had lived her entire life outdoors in the boardwalk garden and surrounding area until this year.

Steeplechase’s favorite place in Leung’s apartment, which she has the run of at night, is his walk-in closet. The rest of the time she has her own room. “She is very curious and eager to explore,” says Leung. “She likes to climb and jump into things, but if you tell her once not to go somewhere, she actually gets it and won’t go there again, so she is one smart cookie. She is also very good with litter box skill, I mean I have never seen a bun this clean. Not only is she 100% in the litter box, she only uses one corner.”

Union Sqaure Petco NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue

Petco Union Square Manager Josh Axelrod presenting a check for $2240.79 from the Petco Foundation to NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue’s Marcie Frishberg. March 15, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

When ATZ visited on Saturday, Josh Axelrod, the longtime manager of the Union Square store, happened to come by to give a check for $2240.79 from the Petco Foundation to NY Metro Rabbit’s Marcie Frishberg. Axelrod said that $1000 came from a Petco-sponsored contest won by Union Square staff and the balance was raised from customer donations at the checkout counter. The Petco Foundation donates about $15 million a year to help more than 8,000 local animal welfare groups across the country. Union Square Petco also hosts Kitty Kind, where we adopted our cat Talulah about two years ago. On Saturday, Long Island Bulldog Rescue also had a booth and the ASPCA’s adoption van was parked outside.

NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing abandoned New York City rabbits and finding them permanent indoor homes. Their website features a plethora of info, from a documentary on what it’s like to live with a companion rabbit to articles on their care and behavior. In addition to Union Square Petco, the group has rabbit adoption locations at the Petco on Lexington Avenue and 86th Street and the City’s Center for Animal Care and Control (ACC) on 110th Street at 2nd Avenue. The group is a satellite of Rabbit Rescue and Rehab, which is the downstate NY chapter of the House Rabbit Society.

NYC Metro Rabbit

NYC Metro Rabbit, the NYC Satellite of Rabbit Rescue and Rehab, at Petco in Union Square. March 15, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related Posts on ATZ…

January 18, 2014: Coney Island Bunny Rescued After 21 Days on The Run

September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk

June 17, 2013: Photo of the Day: Paquito the Chihuahua in Coney Island

April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption

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Coney Island Bunny

Steeplechase, Coney Island Bunny Rescued after 21 Days on the Run. January 26, 2014. Photo © Jozefa Cheman

Steeplechase, the Coney Island “coney” rescued after 21 days on the run, posed for her first official photo today. Want to “Save Coney” and give Steeplechase the bunny a home? This refugee from the bulldozed Coney Island Community Garden will be up for adoption after she is spayed next week.

William Leung, a volunteer with Rabbit Rescue and Rehab successfully “netted” the rabbit, whom he named Steeplechase, on January 18th after ten days of trying to befriend her with bananas and other treats.

“She is scheduled to be spayed next Wednesday,” said Leung, who visited the shy bunny today at New York City’s Animal Care and Control. Rabbit Rescue and Rehab, the New York City chapter of the House Rabbit Society, is the primary bunny rescue group that works with ACC. “Our volunteers go there every day to feed the rabbits,” Leung said.

A list of bunnies up for adoption in New York City is on the group’s petfinder page. Email nyc.metro.rabbits@gmail.com if you are interested in adopting Steeplechase.

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Related Posts on ATZ…

January 18, 2014: Coney Island Bunny Rescued After 21 Days on The Run

January 8, 2014: Bunny Returns to Bulldozed Coney Island Garden, Kitten Euthanized

December 10, 2013: Update on Coney Island Cat ‘Snow Coney’ & His Family

April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption

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Update November 19th: Over the weekend, For Animals reported that Mermaid the Cat needs an MRI and asked supporters to chip in to help fund the expensive diagnostic procedure: “Sadly the biopsy results from Mermaid’s ear polyp came back as ceruminous adenocarcinoma — a locally invasive, aggressive cancer. There is a chance that the TECA surgery (total ear canal ablation) could prove curative if it hasn’t spread. Please help us continue to raise funds for this sweet cat whose new life is just beginning.”

Among the stories of animals being rescued post-Hurricane Sandy, this one caught our eye. A cat named Mermaid rescued in Coney Island! On Friday, a Queens animal rescue group saved the sick cat left behind in Coney Island when its elderly owner was evacuated to a nursing home after Hurricane Sandy. Rescuers from For Animals, Inc. climbed to the 14th floor of a Coney housing project that has no power or heat to get the cat since its guardian will not be returning home. The group has started a chip-in to raise funds for the cat’s medical bills. Mermaid needs a procedure called Total Ear Canal Ablation on her left ear as well as dental work. The cat is now in foster care, where she is eating and even purring, say her rescuers. For Animals posted news and videos of the lucky Mermaid on their Facebook page.

When her rescuer went in to save her she was found hiding in an empty cabinet, completely terrified. She was covered in a towel to keep her calm, placed in a carrier, and brought to the vet. Weighing just 4.4 lbs, she was treated for:
– pyometra (an infected uterus)
– an ear polyp that was plucked and sent for biopsy
– ear mites
– shave down due to severely matted fur
– nail trim due to overgrown claws

A full blood panel revealed her WBC were through the roof which could be related to the pyometra or ear polyp. However, the rest of her bloodwork was normal and she is FIV/FeLV negative. Mermaid only has 2 teeth left and they need to be removed but there are a ton of roots so it’s going to be a big dental. We are holding off on this procedure until her overall health improves.

You can sponsor a shelter cat by making a donation at For Animals website. The private animal shelter in Ozone Park, Queens also has volunteer opportunities for animal lovers to help socialize and care for rescued cats and kittens. Duties include petting, holding and bonding with cats; socializing kittens; brushing and nail trimming; scooping litter boxes and playing with interactive toys.

Mermaid the Coney Island Cat

Mermaid enjoying lunch her first full day in foster care. Photo via For Animals Inc Facebook

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September 23, 2010: Cat Living in the Henderson Building Comes Out for Supper. Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

September 23, 2010: Cat Living in the Henderson Building Comes Out for Supper. Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

When Faber’s Fascination closed on Labor Day and began moving out, ATZ reported that the arcade was the last tenant of the soon-to-be demolished Henderson Building. Well, one more tenant- a grey cat – was discovered yesterday by a photographer who went there to document the demolition of the Surf Hotel on the building’s second floor. “The cat went under the gate of Shoot Out the Star into the Henderson Building when I came close,” says the anon photographer. A full plate of food and a full cup of water had been placed outside the building, probably by one of the cat lovers who care for Coney Island’s feral, stray and abandoned cat population.

As our regular readers know, ATZ loves a Coney Island cat story, preferably with photos or a video. For “I Love NYC Pets Month” in January, we wrote about the cats who live beneath the ramps to Coney Island’s Boardwalk and within its vacant buildings and an attempted cat rescue. We regularly feature Coney Island cats and kittens up for adoption. Now we seem to have hit upon an unfortunate new theme: cats displaced by redevelopment.

September 23, 2010: Demolition in Progress of the Surf Hotel in Henderson Building. Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

September 23, 2010: Demolition in Progress of the Surf Hotel in Henderson Building. Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

The appearance of the Henderson Building cat amid yesterday’s demolition of the Surf Hotel and the removal of the hotel’s original sign reminded us of our last day at Astroland. We’re not referring to the park’s last day of operation on Sept 7, 2008. We mean Astroland’s very last day, the day the lease expired and the property had to be vacated: January 31, 2009. On that day, we helped rescue a few signs from the water flume for the Coney Island History Project. By then there wasn’t much left of Astroland and we didn’t have the heart to take more than a few photos. One of the pix that we didn’t take: Two stray cats who had long found shelter in Astroland and were displaced by the teardown. As we stood outside the now demolished Feltman’s kitchen –home of the hot dog–and peered in at the original tile floor, the cats paced and waited. An Astroland worker came out and fed the Astro cats their last meal.

For information about feral cats, visit the website of the New York City Feral Cats Initiative, a joint program of two private non-profit organizations–the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals and Neighborhood Cats.

September 23, 2010: Last Happy Meal for Cat Living in Coney Island’s Henderson Building? Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

September 23, 2010: Last Happy Meal for Cat Living in Coney Island’s Henderson Building? Photo © AnyMouseHero via Amusing the Zillion

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Related Posts on ATZ…

September 6, 2010: Cutie & Patootie: Coney Island Kittens Up for Adoption!

May 6, 2010: R.I.P. Targette, the Coney Island Arcade Cat’s Shy Sister

January 27, 2010: I Love NYC Pets Month Preview: Coney Island Cat Rescue

July 21, 2009: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Introduces His Sister Targeretty

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Grill House Kitties on Coney Island's Boardwalk. Photo © silversalty via flickr

Grill House Kitties on Coney Island's Boardwalk. Photo © silversalty via flickr

Beneath the ramps to Coney Island’s Boardwalk and within its vacant buildings, feral, stray and abandoned cats find shelter. The cats are regularly fed and looked after by a contingent of Coney Island cat lovers. They have been photographed by residents and tourists alike. Devin Sturdy, a tourist from Melbourne, Australia, was visiting Coney Island in December when he happened to see a man feeding a dozen cats and trying to rescue a sick one. When we found Devin’s video on YouTube the other day, we were reminded just how many cats are up for adoption by animal rescue groups. There are currently 162,407 cats, seeking a “forever home,” or even a foster home, on Petfinder.com. Take a look at their photos and read their bios. Make room for them in your hearts and give them homes. February will be “I Love NYC Pets” month, a citywide pet adoption celebration sponsored by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals. Their slogan is “Will You Be My Furry Valentine?”

When ATZ contacted videographer Devin Sturdy in Australia, he said he’d always been fascinated by Coney Island and “it seemed more appealing to me in winter, quiet and spooky.” Here’s what he told us about the Coney Island cat rescue:

Shortly after disembarking the subway train, I noticed a man feeding cats, not just one or two, but tens of cats. I asked him what he was doing. He was from New Jersey and worked as a volunteer for an organisation that helps animals. He had driven to Coney Island to pick up a specific cat that a friend had told him about. It had been recently abandoned and it had been seen in the area.

Because the cat was not feral, and relatively housebound, he thought it was not necessary to bring a cage with him. However, upon arrival, he noticed another cat that had a sore on its face. He thought it may be a tumor and was concerned about its welfare and wanted to take it to a friend of his who is a vet.

He slowly fed the cat for more than half an hour in an attempt to coax the cat into the car. Finally, after gaining enough trust to be able to touch the cat, he grabbed it by the scruff of its neck. He said that feral cats either immediately relax in a closed environment or go nuts. As you can see from the video, this cat was not comfortable.

I stopped filming because I was concerned that the cat was going to hurt itself. I can tell you that the man opened the door shortly afterward (a couple of seconds) and the cat calmly stepped out of the car and wandered off. He told me that he would return later that day with a cage and attempt to find the cat.

I am a bit of an advocate of adopting stray pets. We rescued our cat Kitty (original name!) from the streets and she lived to be seventeen years old!

Grill House Kitties on Coney Island’s Boardwalk. Photo © silversalty via flickr

Grill House Kitties on Coney Island’s Boardwalk. Photo © silversalty via flickr

We understand completely, Devin. After our own beloved 13-year-old cat went to cat heaven, we find ourselves spending a lot of time “just looking” at photos on Petfinder. By February we’ll be ready to adopt or foster a cat or two.

Here’s a calendar of animal adoption events in New York City and a list of animal rescue groups grouped by borough. If you can’t adopt a pet, please consider helping out these organizations by volunteering or making a donation to support their work. Me-ow.

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Related posts on ATZ…

January 26, 2011: Photo of the Day: Henderson Music Hall Cats Now Homeless

September 6, 2010: Cutie & Patootie: Coney Island Kittens Up for Adoption!

September 9, 2009: More Genuine Coney Island Kittens Up for Adoption!

July 21, 2009: Target the Coney Island Arcade Cat Introduces His Sister Targeretty

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