Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


The cruelty of trying to make a domestic animal wild

August 28, 2012 Ray MacLeod  Halifaxnewsnet.ca Outdoor Notebook Ray MacLeod is a freelance outdoors writer. He lives in Waverley

Itís a terrible thing to tell a young wild animal itís a pet and then throw it back to a natural habitat it never learned to live in. Itís utter cruelty to abandon a domestic animal in a wild world where it was never meant to survive.

Iíve seen the latter all too often in my life and donít know whether people do it out of ignorance, stupidity or cowardice.  Iíd like to think theyíre misinformed.  Sunday night I asked Hope Swinimer, head of both Hope for Wildlife and the city pound, and she was far less lenient than me.  Itís her belief that some people either canít be bothered to find unwanted domestic pets new homes or are not brave enough to face euthanizing them instead of guaranteeing a horrible death. In her experience, Swinimer said, it is too often a matter of out of sight, out of mind.

Iím talking particularly here about domestic rabbits and I state clearly, exactly, that we have no wild rabbits in Nova Scotia.  None.  We have snowshoe hare, a totally different species and a wild creature with long predator-wary ears and huge hind feet that is built to survive in our climate.  For a domestic rabbit to be turned loose here is to hand it death.

On Sunday night, I saw again the effects of this. At Hope for Wildlife, everyone was exhausted after their annual open house, so I volunteered to pick up a young ďwild rabbitĒ someone had found on the outskirts of Metro. The animal turned out to be a very young domestic rabbit, wild only in the sense that it had been abandoned.

Iíve never seen such a small animal so hard done by.  It was filthy and half-starved, with the look of having been on its own for some time.  Parasites had hatched under its skin and were living there as large lumps.  It appeared to be hardly old enough to be away from its mother, let alone survive in a world it knew nothing about.  As it turned out, two other similar small disasters had been rescued nearby the day before and there were reports of others in local scrubland. 

Hope for Wildlife doesnít turn down animals, even if they arenít really wildlife.  Theyíll have these little rabbits checked out, try to get them healthy and then see if anyone will adopt them. 

Facing the knowledge that someone put these young animals on their own to die is a hard thing. To me, an even greater cruelty is that people do the same to aged pets that have never been outside a house in their lives. That, plainly, is cruelty wrapped in betrayal. I know because Iíve seen it.

A few years ago, my wife and I were driving home to Waverley from a late night movie when suddenly I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting something white in the middle of the road.  It was a full-grown and shivering adult rabbit.  On the nearby roadside was a small dish of food.

Why do people do this to pets?  Perhaps Hope Swinimer is right, I donít know. I just wish theyíd stop.

September 10, 2012 Comment: Rabbit dumping is prevalent in many communities such as Richmond and Nanaimo. Just today we wrote to Richmond City Council and relevant staff, prompted by a very recent incident in which a rabbit advocate caught a middle-aged Asian couple trying to dump two rabbits in Minoru Park. A description of the offenders, their van, along with plate no. was provided to the RCMP, animal control, city staff, and the media.