Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Abandoned rabbits in Ladner

In August of 2008 we were contacted by the Delta Community Animal Shelter regarding an "abundance" of discarded domestic rabbits and their offspring living around the Ladner Leisure Centre.  Staff at the shelter have put together a report about managing the population but wanted some further input from us.  We have been out several times to see the rabbits, and at this time the colony is rather small.  People are feeding the bunnies, most of which are adults, probably no more than a year or so.  They have made some burrows in and around the blackberry bushes, and don't stray far from where they are afforded protection.

Carmina Gooch
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC
Photos Oct/08    

The number of abandoned pets is staggering, and these little creatures probably won't live to see next Spring.  Releasing rabbits into the environment is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and an offence under the PCA Act.  Please contact us for information on how you can take action and make a difference in the lives of rabbits, and all animals.  rabbitadbc@shaw.ca

December, 2008  Somebody concerned for the welfare of these rabbits told us that a couple of signs had been put up asking that the public not feed the rabbits.  People had been bringing carrots, lettuce, and feed for them all summer.  We noticed that there weren't as many today as there were on previous visits, and the grassy area was under water.  While we had never seen any with injuries, there were several reports of rabbits with missing fur, and other wounds.  Also, some of them would dart onto the highway and be struck by vehicles. 


Once a household pet, and then abandoned to the outdoors, is the harsh reality for many an unwanted bunny.  They may be chased and attacked by dogs, cats, or each other, or become prey to wildlife.  And, they may suffer from the harmful and cruel actions of humans.  Struggling to stay safe, happy, and alive for another day is tough for these discarded creatures and their offspring.  Be a voice for the rabbits, educate others about the consequences of irresponsible and thoughtless actions.  We are seeking compassion and justice for all living beings.  RABBITS MATTER! 


June 8, 2009 

From: Carmina Gooch, President
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC
To: Mayor Jackson and Council
Cc: Clerk's Office, Sarah Lowe, DCAS
Re: Rabbits at Ladner Leisure Centre 

Dear Mayor and Council: 

On this past weekend outing to your community, we stopped at the Ladner Leisure Centre, as we've done regularly over the last few years.  Our specific interest and concerns have been the abandoned domestic rabbits and their offspring who have been living in and around the blackberry bushes to the north of the complex.  In the summer of 2008 I was advised that a report had been put together by the animal shelter with respect to managing the colony and an inquiry as the whether the Rabbit Advocacy Group was able to assist in spay and neuter efforts or to help in relocation or rehoming endeavors. I also received correspondence from residents worried about the rabbits running onto Highway 17 and being struck by vehicles.  Later that year several signs were also posted around the parking lot asking that the public refrain from feeding the rabbits, as this was compounding the "problem." 

While the grassy area was under water a considerable amount of time during the winter, and the rabbit population seemed to have decreased, it was expected that one would see more rabbits this spring.  However, it is clearly evident that a brush cutter has been used recently to mow down the blackberry bushes, thus eliminating the rabbits' homes, and place to escape and hide from predators.  The staff members we spoke with at the animal shelter were unaware of the situation. 

We did not see any rabbits anywhere, which is very odd, and are inquiring as to whether any action has been taken by the municipality to relocate or exterminate them.  We are concerned about the welfare of these animals, and are willing to work with the community in finding compassionate and non-lethal methods to address the problems of unregulated breeding, selling, impulse buying, and abandonment of the European (pet) rabbit.  

A response at your earliest convenience is requested. 

Sincerely, (contact information removed)



June 17, 2009 Delta Community Animal Services was asked to respond to our concerns.   In speaking with the shelter manager, Sarah Lowe, I was informed that the decision to cut down the blackberry bushes was primarily a Parks decision.  Apparently the rabbits were creating quite a bit of havoc by digging holes, and because the public often saw them on the grass, they were being fed.  This attracted rats.   Evidently the rabbits are still around, and have just moved a little further away.  Delta, like other communities, is in the process of creating new bylaws, specific to rabbits.  We have been asked to collaborate on legislation that would ban the sale of unaltered rabbits, and to assist financially with a spay/neuter program, as well as to take in rabbits, as we are able.  We have been working with the District of North Vancouver in this regard since 2002.

July 4, 2009  A number of baby rabbits were spotted today in the area around the police station and several adults were around the Leisure Centre.  The blackberry bushes are growing back, providing safety and shade on those hot summer days.


Comment:  We were contacted by a concerned Ladner resident who informed us that the blackberry bushes had been clearcut again on Tuesday, July 7th, leaving the rabbits vulnerable to predators.  It was recently estimated that 60 rabbits are living in the area, many of whom are babies.  Kids have been seen tormenting and harassing the bunnies.  It’s such a pity that there are those among us who can’t let these peaceful creatures be.  Such simple and idyllic beauty tainted by cowardly, disgusting and cruel behaviour.  Please report any cruelty to the shelter so it can be investigated.  Morally and legally, animal cruelty is a crime. 

Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside of itself; it only requires opportunity.  George Eliot

July 12, 2009  During today's visit we spotted several baby rabbits up against the building where there is a minimal food source.  That's where their burrow is, and they are too small to jump off the wall, and over to the grassy area.  Some of the adults were chasing each other and fighting.  Rat bait traps were also seen.  Contact rabbitadbc@shaw.ca with any news, questions or how you can help.

August, 2009  There are quite a number of people concerned for the rabbits' welfare and who check on them daily.  Some have been "rehomed."  Thanks to everybody who's making a difference and for caring.

November 1, 2009  There were a number of baby rabbits and young adults around the Leisure Centre today, and one local resident commented that she was a little surprised to see so many.  Parks has been fixing up the gardens, and some more small signs requesting that the rabbits not be fed, had been placed around the facility.

No plans for rabbit population

By Sandor Gyarmati, The Delta Optimist June 16, 2010

They may look cute and cuddly but feral bunnies are a problem in Ladner. Municipal officials hope Mother Nature will deal with a large rabbit population that's become more evident in recent weeks with the animals being displaced due to construction of the Delta Gymnastics building near the Ladner Leisure Centre. It's prompted concerns by some residents about the fate of the rabbits.

The construction activity only highlights an ongoing problem of domestic rabbits being left to fend for themselves and breeding in the wild, said Delta bylaw enforcement manager Hugh Davies.

Noting there are no plans to capture the rabbits and bring them to the Delta Community Animal Shelter, Davies said a conservative estimate had the rabbit population in the 200 range. "They're considered wildlife once they're out there. They're actually considered pest wildlife, if anything," he said.

"Like the grey squirrel that's here, they're not indigenous here either. They were let go by people and, of course, spreading all over the place too. Once a rabbit is left on its own, they're considered under the Wildlife Act as wildlife."

The University of Victoria recently made a controversial announcement that it would perform a cull to reduce an out-of-control rabbit population on campus. The B.C. SPCA was opposed to the university's plan, urging it to seek "every humane alternative to managing the rabbit population on campus."

Davies noted the rabbit population here is being monitored but a cull isn't being contemplated for now. "Delta hasn't talked about doing any culling. Mother Nature seems to be doing the trick every once in a while when an eagle drops down on them," he said.

The animal shelter is currently only taking in rabbits that are injured, he noted. "Certainly the shelter doesn't have the space to deal with hundreds of rabbits," he said.

Frequently seen milling around the front of the Ladner Leisure Centre, residents coming to feed the bunnies only helps the population grow.

"It's really contentious with people. Some people love them and want them to be nurtured and come down and feed them, but that doesn't help because it helps proliferate them. I'm sure every once and a while people are adding the family rabbit to group which doesn't help either," added Davies.

The BCSPSA says the quality of life for feral rabbits is "suboptimal" because the availability of resources may be limited and they lack the defensive instincts to avoid predators.

Communities across B.C. have dealt with their feral rabbit populations in various ways, including attempting to trap and sterilize them to culling. The City of Richmond bans the sale of the animals in pet stores.

The B.C. SPCA would like all municipalities to forbid the sale of unsterilized rabbits, with exceptions for legitimate breeders or organizations. The society also notes the releasing of domestic rabbits into the wild is an offence under the Criminal Code.

Comment: Lots of rabbits are visible alongside the highway. We make periodic stops and others concerned for their welfare keep a watchful eye on them.

January 10, 2012  Feral rabbits to get new home at Ladner Harbour Park

March 9, 2012 Delta's humane relocation of abandoned pet rabbits and their offspring that have been around municipal hall and the Ladner Leisure Centre for years is going according to plan. Delta Community Animal Shelter staff and volunteers have already relocated about 200 rabbits to Ladner Harbour Park. Initially, municipal staff wrote to the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources (FLNR), for advice. Their response – trap and kill, or else relocate the bunnies to sanctuaries outside the province. Sensible and merciful Delta officials found this unacceptable, and without a permit (another onerous bureaucratic process) sprung into action and today the rabbits are settling into their new home. Five have been adopted.

March 23, 2012  We visited Harbour Park recently, and saw only a few rabbits. Some members of the community reported coming across dead rabbits while walking the trails, but municipal staff have not seen any on their daily checks. CAO George Harvie told reporters that “ they’ve adapted very well to the natural harborage” after being slowly cut off from outside food provided by DCAS staff. A total of ten rabbits have now been adopted as the program slowly wraps up.

April 2, 2012 Delta calling for more controls over rabbit sales

November 2, 2012 Relocation to Ladner Park less than anticipated

December 17, 2012 An amendment to Delta's animal control bylaw makes abandoning rabbits or animals of any kind a ticketable offense, the fine being set at $500.

BC Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 

Rabbits deserved second chance at home

January 10, 2018 Delta Optimist

Editor: Re: Tame rabbits run into ‘brave’ hunter, letter to the editor, Jan. 5

Not that those responsible for callously dumping five domestic rabbits in Ladner Harbour Park care about legalities, but such actions constitute an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and are also a criminal act under the Criminal Code of Canada. As well, a person can be ticketed for abandonment under Delta’s animal control bylaw.

As to the male who shot and killed these rabbits, claiming his “right to hunt for food”, there are plenty of non-animal products that one can avail oneself of, without resorting to taking the life of vulnerable and sensitive little creatures.

A simple act of kindness and compassion, such as contacting an animal welfare group for help, would have given these pets a second chance in finding a good home. Surely, they deserved that.

Carmina Gooch 

NB: The rabbits were dumped in November and were being fed daily by the woman who initially contacted the newspaper. She also notified the police.

February 27, 2018 Deceased rabbits are still being found throughout the Nanaimo region on a daily basis. Suspected cases of the virus in Comox and Courtenay have yet to be confirmed.

A number of dead rabbits first showed up in mid-to-late February around Vancouver Island University and quickly spread to the nearby Rotary Bowl area. At the same time there were suspected cases in several small colonies on Annacis Island in Delta. Rabbits disappeared from one day to the next.

Delta shelter manager, Ryan Voutilainen, explained that four were picked up and held for a period of time, and when news of the Vancouver Island situation circulated, they were sent to the Animal Health Centre for testing. One of the rabbits tested positive for the disease. All had severe lesions on most internal organs.

The animal shelter is working with different agencies, like the Ministry of Agriculture, and had to be sure of the results before notifying the public. Since the four reported cases in mid-February there have been none since. Let’s hope this was an isolated incident.

Pasteurellosis and other illnesses; food pyramid; 2018 deadly rabbit virus hits mid-Van. Island, spreads beyond; hits lower mainland


Fraser River Heritage Park in Mission is also home to abandoned domestic rabbits and their offspring. They stay on the north side, close to the blackberry bushes that offer them protection from predators. The population is relatively small, and has stayed basically the same for years. On a cold and windy January, 2009 only six adults were spotted. No rabbits were seen on a warm sunny day in September, 2009.




August 2017: There are various-sized rabbit colonies throughout BC’s Lower Mainland and beyond. Once domestic rabbits become unwanted by their ‘owners’, a solution for many of these people is to abandon them outdoors. There is little or no chance of them being caught, let alone prosecuted for their actions. We recently received an email from a Mission resident, frustrated because a neighbor released about 25 unaltered rabbits on his property. Naturally, they started roaming throughout the neighbourhood, taking cover under cars, and generally doing what rabbits do. 

The City of Mission, Fraser Valley Regional District Animal Control and the Abbotsford SPCA (which covers Mission) offered little assistance. The lives of the rabbits are at risk, they are attractants to predators, it’s ecologically destructive, it’s costly to taxpayers and those who try to save them, and above all, it’s inhumane. If nothing is done, this situation can easily escalate into an uncontrollable situation.