Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters

 

Bunny advocate
By Justin Beddall - North Shore Outlook - February 14, 2008

Bunny Love - Carmina Gooch poses with pet rabbits Newton (l-r), Cotton and Nicholas. The woman is the founder of the Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC and has more than 40 of the abandoned animals in her North Van home. Daniel Pi photo

Carmina Gooch’s family of pets has, through the years, multiplied like, um, rabbits.

The interior of Carmina Gooch’s tidy Indian River-area home has an overarching bunny motif: from fridge magnets and paintings to kitschy egg holders and mantelpiece figurines to rabbit-festooned throw-blankets.

But, it’s not only the home’s décor that hints at Gooch’s obsession. There’s also a subtle, “farmy” scent that wafts through her house. That smell isn’t so surprising when you consider she keeps a 40-kilo bale of hay downstairs (purchased regularly in Aldergrove) to feed her rapidly multiplying family of rabbits. Gooch, founder of the Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC, has, since the early 1990s, been a fierce protector – and collector – of bunnies.

At the moment, she and common-law husband Terry, also a pet advocate, share their home with 40 rabbits – all spayed, neutered and vet-checked.

Gooch has a soft spot for rabbits. They are, after all, prey animals, she explains. And not just in the wild: Rabbits are raised for meat, turned into coats and used for science experimentation. “I feel sorry for them,” she says, sitting on her living room couch with three bunnies.

Gooch says domestic bunnies are typically “impulse” pet-store buys and most, despite cute floppy ears and fluffy tails, end up abandoned within six months.

Usually, they are dumped in parks. Those that end up at animal shelters don’t fare much better. Adult rabbits are hard to place, and many become “lifers.” “Nobody adopts them.”

The lucky ones end up with Gooch.

“People think they’re easy to look after, they just aren’t,” she explains. “I’m not advocating for them as pets. It (takes) a special type of person if you want a rabbit.”

She never planned on an extended bunny family. Then-boyfriend Terry surprised her with a pet rabbit in 1992 – Mocha, a Dutch-breed bunny, she recalls. Shortly after she thought: this rabbit needs a friend. Then came rabbit number two.

Not long afterwards, Gooch become active in animal advocacy. The kind-hearted North Vancouver woman started “independent rescues,” – that is, taking in abandoned or animal shelter rabbits.

By bunny number three, Terry kept saying: You can’t get another after that. After about the ninth or 10th rabbit, he just gave up, she says, smiling. By 1998 the couple had 46 rescued rabbits living in their house.

Beside taking in rabbits, she’s also been a vocal advocate, most notably initiating a bulk letter-writing campaign to get Petcetera to stop selling rabbits, which ended up as a cover story in the Canadian edition of Best Friends magazine. Gooch also spearheaded the creation of outdoor and indoor bunny pens at the DNV animal shelter.

She volunteers regularly at the shelter, along with caring for her own rabbits, which is a full-time job.

She gets up at 6 o’clock each morning to clean her bunny sanctuary, scooping poop and rotating the bunnies into different-sized cages with new roommates. “I can’t leave them all together,” she explains.

She feeds her bunnies hay, pellets, Romaine lettuce and carrots. “They like the tops better than the carrots.” Her routine is repeated at 3 and 7 p.m.

Not too long ago, Gooch had 50 rabbits, which meant two upstairs bedrooms were converted into rabbit hostels. “This (40 rabbits) I can handle – that (50 rabbits) was too much,” she says.

Of course, her rabbit advocacy work hasn’t come without sacrifice. Her last vacation was back in 1994, when she had only four rabbits. Her sister rabbit-sat but said afterwards, “We won’t be doing that again.”

And while her family may not be willing to look after her furry brood, they’re extremely proud of her animal advocacy work. “They’re glad I’m doing advocacy work,” she says. “They think it’s good.”

February is Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month. To learn more about the Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC or make a donation, go to www.rabbitadvocacy.com.

Bunny advocate in March 2008 issue of the Fraser Monthly, Canada's leading Japanese magazine