The White House is lacking a dog, or a cat—any kind of pet—for the first time in decades. And while President Trump has broken this hallowed tradition, Vice President Pence is more than making up for it.
Over at the US Naval Observatory, the Pence family resides with three animals: Pickle the stressed out cat, Harley the Australian shepherd, and the distinguished BOTUS, Bunny of the United States, or Marlon Bundo, which probably appears on his rabbit birth certificate.
Marlon Bundo is a good rabbit. Let’s not politicize him because his owner has draconian beliefs about nearly everything. Or because his owner helped to coin the “Pence rule,” which says women cannot be trusted in the company of solo men. Or because—again—his owner’s religious views on science are dangerously ignorant. The bunny is blameless.
BOTUS made his debut on Instagram in January, and I’ve been following him since then. Right from the start, I noticed something upsetting—disturbing, even. Marlon Bundo’s nails are way too long!
I used to own rabbits (RIP Silver and Floppy), and know that nail care is a mandatory part of having them as pets. This was clear to me even as a child. It’s especially vital when bunnies run around on carpet, as their nails can snag and tear.
According to SaveABunny, a rabbit rescue non-profit, “rabbits’ nails can grow to be very long and sharp and can be uncomfortable for the rabbit.” As such, they must be trimmed every six to eight weeks. “Long nails may potentially curl into your rabbit’s foot,” warns My House Rabbit, another bunny rescue organization. Many owners elect to have a veterinarian clip their rabbit’s nails because it’s somewhat difficult.
Poor BOTUS has been suffering too-long nails for 10 months now. Probably longer. More than a dozen Instagram photos show nails curling outward from his toes on both front and back feet. Many, many people have replied to Marlon Bundo’s posts, asking the Pence family to please trim his nails. I’ve personally commented on approximately six months’ worth of posts. Either the Pence family doesn’t read these comments, or they don’t care.
“Marlon Bundo's nails are far too long—you can see in literally any photo of him that they're extending out past his fur and going in insane directions,” Callie Beusman, bunny owner and senior editor at Broadly, the VICE vertical dedicated to women’s interests, told me. “The Pence family cannot claim ignorance on these issues because insane rabbit people (including myself) frequently comment on Marlon Bundo's Instagrams with alarm and concern.”
“When a rabbit's nails get long, it is hard for them to walk or run on them (think of having long fingernails and how cumbersome they are). Also, the nails can break and bleed and this is very painful for the rabbit,” a licensed educator at a bunny rescue non-profit, who asked that we not use her name because she did not want to talk about political issues, told me.
BOTUS otherwise seems well-loved. He frequently appears with Pence’s daughter, Charlotte, who adopted him “for a college filmmaking project,” says CNN.
Rabbits are the third-most abandoned pet in America, and are often dumped after the Easter holiday, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Between 2013 and 2014, roughly 25 percent of all pet rabbits were adopted, 14 percent were pet store-bought, and the rest came from “other sources,” found the American Pet Products Association. Bunny adoption seems to be on the rise, so it’s nice that Charlotte opted to rescue BOTUS, instead of buying him from a pet shop.
Regardless, maybe Charlotte (or whoever) doesn’t know about rabbit nail care. I’m not sure how she could not see those raggedy toes, but let’s just assume here. Most bunny rescues have nail manuals on their websites. It’s an easily Google-able task. There are guides like this one; this one; this one; this one; this one; and this one. Some rescues even do trimmings pro-bono, or for a very cheap price. When in doubt, however, consult a veterinarian.
“Those nails are definitely a bit overgrown and could certainly use a trimming. Overgrown nails in rabbits can run the same risks as allowing them to overgrow in dogs and cats,” Las Vegas-based veterinarian Mark Primiano told me when I showed him photos of BOTUS.
“At best, you'll have discomfort when walking which can result in irregular strides and sores in places that normally don't contact the ground when the nails are of an appropriate length. Worst case scenario would be the nails start to curl into the paw pads resulting in trauma and infection,” he added.
The White House press office did not return my request for comment. My only hope is that Pence and his family get this message: Please, please clip his goddamn nails.
Next year, Pence’s wife, Karen, and Charlotte are set to publish a book called Marlon Bundo's Day in the Life of the Vice President. Pray for BOTUS.