Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters

 

Easter and related rabbit issues

Comment While rabbits are a common symbol of Easter, it seems that every year the media has to print a picture of a child holding or nuzzling up to a rabbit.  It's this sort of stereotyping that has children asking their parents for a live baby bunny as a gift.  The reality is that rabbits are not good pets for children nor do they belong in a cage, where they're often forgotten about, before being abandoned. 

So when I saw the front page of our local paper with the title "Easter treat" I had to make my views known.  Following is my letter to our Mayor and Council and the response from the Facility Manager at Maplewood Farm. (2006)  

Mayor and Council, 

The front page of the April 16th edition of the North Shore News has a large picture of a young boy petting a two-week-old rabbit at Maplewood Farm.  Firstly, this is most irresponsible of the paper as the association of bunnies, children, and Easter sends the wrong message.  Rabbits are not appropriate pets for young children, as they do not like being picked up or handled.  Secondly, if Maplewood Farm is educating young people it should be pointed out that rabbits frighten easily, and that the mother should have been left in peace and quiet until the kits were older. 

As somebody who has been involved in rabbit rescue and advocacy for well over a decade now, and as a volunteer several groups, including the District Animal Welfare Shelter (DAWS) I would like to know if rabbits are being bred at the farm.  The caption definitely indicates that this is the case, and if indeed it is, I would suggest that precautions are in place so as to avoid recurrences, or there will be more offspring in the months to come.   

During the last several years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of domestic rabbits being abandoned to the outdoors, shelters, and rescue groups.  The surplus of unwanted rabbits is staggering and the overpopulation has gone beyond crisis proportions.  There is absolutely no need to breed when so many remain homeless and others are being "euthanized". There simply isn't a demand for adult rabbits, and if these babies do find homes, I wonder how many of them will suffer from neglect before they are disposed of in one way or another.  Spay and neuter is the message that needs to be heard, along with the fact that having a pet involves a lifetime responsibility.  Can you tell me what the plans are for these rabbits?  Will they be sterilized?  Are they going to be handed over to people who are making an impulse decision based on cuteness? 

The DAWS currently houses several rabbits that have been there for over three years and is in the process of dealing with a situation in the Upper Lonsdale area, where a resident let loose a number of domestic rabbits to roam through the neighbourhood.  This isn't the first time an incident such as this has happened.  I personally have three rabbits that I helped capture from the Delbrook area in the late fall of 2004.  Another one is still living at the shelter. 

There have been other situations on the North Shore as well, and in this latest occurrence there are now two intact males and one intact female at the District Shelter who will require altering.  There is a chance the female is pregnant, and two or three more that have thus far eluded capture.  The gestation period is roughly thirty days, with the possibility of up to ten kits per litter.  One cannot count on factors such as predation or sickness as a means to control the population, and a situation can become unmanageable in a very short period of time.  It is fairly common for people to let their "pet" rabbit go "free" once the novelty has worn off and they are no longer wanted.  

Please see the Companion Rabbit Welfare Report acknowledged on March 30, 2006 File RCA #2006-00363 for detailed information.  I have also enclosed sixteen articles that illustrate the consequences and costs of rabbit dumping.

I would recommend that bylaws to include rabbits be addressed by District staff in the very near future and would be pleased to discuss the matter with you.  

Sincerely, 

Carmina Gooch
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC
North Vancouver 

May 5, 2006 

Re: Rabbit Issues at Maplewood Farm 

Dear Ms. Gooch: 

Thank you so much for your very thorough and informative letter of April 19, 2006 regarding rabbits at Maplewood Farm and rabbit problems throughout Greater Vancouver.  Thank you too, for affording us the opportunity to share with you our thoughts and concerns about the very despicable ongoing abuse and abandonment of rabbits on the North Shore. 

I would like to compliment you on your obvious dedication to rabbits, I am sure you have made a huge difference over the years.  These animals really need an advocate! 

On average the Farm is offered a free pet rabbit about once every two weeks.  Due to the status of our "closed" flock, wishing to protect their health, and the fact that we keep one type of rabbit, the New Zealand White Giant, we do not accept unwanted pets.  This has been our policy for approximately 20 years.  For these type of inquiries, we refer folks to Vancouver Rabbit Rescue. 

Unfortunately, due to the type of facility Maplewood Farm is, people seem to think if they can't get them in the front door they will try the "back door".  Too many times throughout the year pet rabbits are seen running about in the District property behind and adjacent to the Farm.  Obviously, these poor creatures have been abandoned, left to fend for themselves against all manner of wild animals, let alone the domestic dogs that run freely there!  Just last week we took a rabbit to the DAWS that had been captured by a neighbour on that property.  Poor thing had two broken femurs and a broken pelvis.  The attending veterinarian had to put it down.  Too bad the previous owner couldn't know what horrible fate had befallen their cast off pet. 

I have managed Maplewood Farm for over 25 years.  It has been our policy never to sell to pet homes.  I and my staff feel rabbits do not make very good pets.  We try to promote the idea that we keep rabbits here, if folks want to visit rabbits they should come here and not keep them in their homes.  We try to educate folks to the fact that rabbits are fairly long lived animals, 7 to 10 years, and a big and long time commitment not to be taken lightly. 

You wanted to know if our rabbits are altered so that they can not reproduce.  They are not spayed or neutered, we keep one buck who is housed separate from our doe flock, and his companion is a guinea pig.  The doe flock is the group of rabbits Farm customers can visit with.  And by the way, we do not allow a person to pick up the rabbits, that is definitely a no-no!  From time to time it is necessary for the Farm to breed for replacement animals obviously due to natural attrition, etc.  When dispersal of any rabbit is necessary it is with other breeders of the same breed.  The genetic pool we draw upon is kept healthy this way. 

The photo in the North Shore News that caught your attention was strictly for promotional purposes, just highlighting the fact that we now have kits for viewing and was not meant to imply that children and rabbits were a natural.  It will take a long time to erase the image of rabbits and Easter, I am afraid.  I think we will be much more careful in the future of what this type of photo might convey to viewers.  This too, brings to mind the opportunity for the Farm to be even more proactive about this issue.  Perhaps we can provide more informative signage about rabbits. 

Again, thank you Ms. Gooch for introducing yourself to us and for helping us continue our education of the public about rabbits.


           

                                           This is the perfect Easter bunny         This a a 10-year commitment

Alternative gifts to live bunnies at Easter include plush or dairy-free chocolate rabbits.  Support the "Make Mine Chocolate" campaign and help spread the word that rabbits are not disposable pets.

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) has partnered with "Make Mine Chocolate" and in a 2007 survey found that the overwhelming majority of Americans prefer gifts like chocolate and candy for Easter.  We are making a difference and saving lives - one bunny at a time.