Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Injunction dismissed activists forge ahead

November 14, 2011 Judge dismisses rabbit injunction Justice Ged Hawko says Dan Onischuk didn't have the standing to apply for an injunction to stop Canmore's plans to exterminate the town's 'feral' rabbits. The Town of Canmore’s lawyer, Michael Assen, argued that Mr. Onischuk didn’t have sufficient interest for the court to hear the application and that it was basically an abuse of process, because Onischuk was asking the courts to enforce statutes that are within the government of Alberta’s responsibility to enforce if there is a violation.”

The Province of Alberta has determined that feral European rabbits (domestic) are not regarded as wildlife under the Wildlife Act. They are considered to be a municipal issue and in this case, entirely the Town of Canmore’s responsibility. Under its definition, a feral animal refers to an animal that has escaped from domestication and becomes wild. Under the new Animal Control Bylaw passed, residents are prohibited from keeping or causing feral rabbits to be on their property. According to Alberta SRD/ Fish and Wildlife, rabbits are not protected by any of the province’s wildlife laws. Laws also prohibit the release of non-native species.

Mr. Onischuk petitioned the Court to have his case re-opened based on three issues – that of no proper standing, his application was an abuse of process, and the University of Victoria case heard July 30, 2010  in BC Supreme Court in which a temporary injunction was obtained, preventing the University from trapping and killing any rabbits on its property.

He was successful, and a decision hearing via tele-conference will be heard on December 7th.

Meanwhile, Calgary’s Animal Services Centre Clinic has stepped up and offered to provide free spay and neuter surgeries for the bunnies. Bylaw and Animal Services director Bill Bruce has confirmed to rescue groups that veterinarians are willing to work at no charge. Discussions are ongoing. Several offers of land have been submitted to Canmore officials, but have yet to be approved. Town officials have imposed near impossible criteria for those working toward non-lethal solutions, and say that “at this point no volunteer group has proven organized enough to take possession of the rabbits and relocate them.” However, the RFP standards for non-profits was next to impossible to adhere to, and the entire $50,000 budget was awarded to a trapping business to gas (carbon dioxide)  the rabbits and dispose of their bodies, “but with instructions to hand over any rabbits to an approved rescue meeting their criteria.”  The RFP process certainly appears stacked against  “no-kill” alternatives while strongly enabling lethal measures. The approved contractor, Animal Damage Control, can only trap on public property unless permission from the private property owner has been obtained.    

Global TV, Edmonton poll 11/15/11 asks: What do you think the town of Canmore should do about the thousands of feral rabbits wandering the area?

Euthanize them as their population is getting out of hand  46.22%   
Spay and neuter the bunnies, then relocate them  38.66%   
Leave them alone  15.13%  

As days progressed, so did the results of the poll. On November 22nd just 36.61 agreed with ‘euthanasia’, while  51.7 thought they should be sterilized and relocated, and 11.65 felt they should just be left alone.

November 19, 2011 Letters to the media are mixed, some in favour of having the rabbits eradicated, others in support of sparing their lives. What’s so tiresome is the suggestion to feed the rabbits to the poor. A letter-writer to the Calgary Herald recounted how her grandparents raised rabbits for food all through the ‘50s to the ‘70s, as if that somehow is a good idea today.

Carmina Gooch responded with a different viewpoint on 11/19/11: How many times do we have to hear such an archaic and mindless suggestion as to feed the rabbits to the poor? This does nothing to address the root causes of poverty, nor does it even begin to address the ethical implications of a society that sanctions the killing of animals for human use.  

I fail to see any merit in having this letter published. As media plays a role in shaping public perception, I suggest that messages of compassion and justice for all living creatures are far more beneficial than those that endorse a culture of disrespect and the consumption of animal flesh. 

There are Facebook groups, like Sane Solutions for the Canmore Bunnies, where everyone can get the latest news, discuss ideas, or volunteer to help. Networking with like-minded organizations and spreading information will draw attention to the plight of the rabbits and tell Canmore officials that the lives of these rabbits matter to you.   

November 23, 2011: A website called Canmore Resident Plan was created earlier this week and has gotten the attention of Mayor Casey and the media. It calls for a boycott of the town.   

“To all musicians, dancers, sports teams, sectors of business and associations and boards,” it reads in part. “If your company or event is being hosted in Canmore, AB, please put thought into using a alternate community such as Banff AB. Put the pressure on and show you do not support the rabbit cull. “Let’s get Mayor (Ron) Casey and council to reconsider.” 

Some of those involved in the rescue community have expressed disagreement with the site’s message and feel that working collectively with Canmore officials in arriving at mutually beneficial solutions is a better approach.     

Carmina Gooch commented to Bunny lovers calling for tourism boycott as Canmore continues plans to destroy feral rabbits 11/23/2011 Rabbits are dumped into communities like Canmore all the time by uncaring pet 'owners.' Compound that with municipalities not implementing bylaws that would help reduce abandonment, a culture of apathy and disregard for our animal friends, and politicians who support lethal measures as a means of controlling populations, it's inevitable that there'd be this sort of pushback. Right or wrong, it's got attention. Now, for some humane long-term solutions without bloodshed.

December 1, 2011: Canmore officials have been in discussion with groups looking to have the town’s rabbits sterilized and safely relocated to sanctuary. After it appeared the roaming rabbits would be exterminated, it now looks as though a revised proposal by an original applicant could see at least some of their lives spared. Save Canmore Bunnies group is looking for volunteers to come out this weekend to do prep work and set up temporary holding areas for the rabbits. EARS, the not-for-profit group collecting donations for the rescue, claims the projected cost per rabbit is $130.00. Rabbitats has identified a number of places for these bunnies to go for far less money. Canmore officials confirm they have received offers of land, but won’t comment further.

December 5, 2011 A new offer - Animal Rescue Corps, a Washington, D.C. non-profit, has presented Canmore officials with a plan that would spare the lives of all the feral European rabbits that have been part of the town for decades. Let Mayor Casey and decision-makers, as well as the media, know that you support this group, and to move forward on relocating the bunnies to sanctuaries. Scotlund Haisley, president and founder of the group, has been doing animal protection and rescue work for years. He was also briefly president of In Defense of Animals. There’s absolutely no excuse not to accept this compassionate and ethical solution.   

Canmore Bunnies: Animal Rescue Corps. To Save Town's Rabbits

December 5, 2011

(CP) CALGARY - A white knight has hopped into the fray to rescue bunnies facing the death penalty in a scenic Rocky Mountain community near Banff National Park. The town of Canmore, Alta., has made international headlines and faced the wrath of animal lovers for its controversial plan to destroy its out-of-control feral rabbit population.

It has sparked heated debate in Canmore itself with one website calling for a tourism boycott and threatening emails being sent to the town office, which are currently being investigated by the RCMP. But the cull may not be necessary after an offer from the Animal Rescue Corps, a non-profit animal protection organization based in Washington, D.C.

The group is proposing to work with Canmore, 110 km west of Calgary, and manage all aspects of dealing with the rabbit problem, including trapping, transporting, spaying, neutering and placement in a new home. ARC president Scotlund Haisley says that could be done within a six week period.

Update 12/05/11: Mayor Casey responded to our e-mail saying that he has “heard nothing of this proposal apart from what is on the press” and that letting him know something of it first “would have been appropriate and given them (ARC) some credibility.”  Now what? 

Update 12/06/11: Sally Caudill, communications and environmental care coordinator said ARC’s proposal has been received and it will be reviewed as soon as possible.

December 8, 2011: We have been hearing from residents for quite some time that there are very few rabbits to be seen in Canmore, with not as many sightings as in other years. Several advocates from out of town have also reported the same. Where are they? Are people catching them, or was the population ever as great as indicated? Town officials don’t seem to have any records or solid proof to back up their claims of thousands. Additionally, the accuracy/legitimacy of the actual coyote population is being questioned. Wildlife biologists say there have always been coyotes in the Bow Valley and that they are not the threat people think they are. Dianne Wittner, a wildlife biologist, who was speaking in Canmore in April said: “They've always been here: they always have been, they always will be.”  We have to learn to coexist with nature.  

Dan Onischuk’s application before the Courts was denied for a second time. Among the reasons given by Judge Hawco to Onischuk was that he had not sufficiently proven his personal interest or personal injury peculiar to himself. He followed the decision in Cassells - BC Supreme Court, 2010. He added that a judicial review application was the proper method to challenge Canmore bylaws.   

Rabbits have a right to live, just as we do, so if anybody is aware of the rabbits being harassed or worse, please document , take photos, and report it to the appropriate agencies, like bylaws, the RCMP, or the SPCA, so action can be taken.

December 19, 2011 Canmore officials are balking at accepting a proposal that would have the town’s rabbit population relocated to safety. Scotlund Haisley, president of the Animal Rescue Corps, says the town of Canmore wants a proposal that includes a pre-approved sanctuary and an agreement to work with the firm (Animal Damage Control) hired to trap and kill the bunnies. Haisley said the group can't specify a sanctuary in advance until it knows more about the type and number of rabbits it is dealing with. And until the town commits to abandoning its catch-and-kill plan, the two can't work together. Canmore isn’t commenting.

How many more roadblocks are town officials going to come up with to prevent these from rabbits being relocated to safety? One has to seriously question the motives behind such seemingly extraordinary efforts. In the Christmas season of peace and goodwill, how can town decision-makers justify going ahead with slaughter? If we allow it, the democracy and moral progress of our nation will suffer yet again another setback.

December 21, 2011 After a lot of negotiations and behind the scenes dialogue, it looks like Canmore will be finalizing an agreement with Susan Vickery of Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society (EARS) to relocate some of the town’s European rabbits to sanctuary. Mayor Ron Casey said the new proposal is “sound.”  Hmm. Considering EARS track record with the UVic rabbits it really makes one wonder how this deal was finagled. Vickery says her group has two donations of land for sanctuaries for between 25 and 150 rabbits in the Calgary area. She doesn't want to give the exact location because people may dump unwanted animals there. And, of course, there are security reasons.  She says it costs about $130 per rabbit to keep it in a sanctuary and has only enough money so far for 150 rabbits. This figure, as mentioned previously, is too high, and could easily be adjusted. Sally Caudill, spokesperson for the town says, "We will give Susan as many rabbits as she's capable of taking and then, after that, we will go ahead with the original plan, which is to trap and humanely euthanize and then send them to a wildlife rehab centre as feed." Canmore recently rejected a terrific offer from the Animal Rescue Corps (ARC), a non-profit animal protection organization based in Washington, D.C.  People are astounded and angry. We ask that they reconsider. The town is already being referred to as Killmore. 

January 3-4, 2012 Most tourists who came to Canmore to partake in the winter festivities have left. Too bad, they missed seeing the truck loaded with traps for the rabbits. Residents will be closely monitoring the process, taking video, and reporting on activities. We don’t know how long it will take, but it’s undoubtedly been planned to not interfere with upcoming events like the Trapper’s Ball which was nearly cancelled last year. How fortunate that the “great big party for locals” has been saved. Now, what about the rabbits? Anyone? 

A number of people remain unconvinced that the Town of Canmore cannot work with the Animal Rescue Corps and have all the rabbits relocated safely to sanctuaries. The contract bid tender section 4.1 said Canmore "reserves the right to cancel if other factors necessitate cancellation". Section 7.1 says "this is not a contract. No legal obligations are created or imposed on Canmore". Additionally, any well-written contract has an opt-out clause, which was pointed out by Carmina Gooch, in an e-mail sent to the town. She further added that lethal control measures have invariably proven to be controversial, costly, ineffective, and ecologically unsound. Moreover, they do not address existing underlying issues; they merely impede the moral progress of a community. 

Mayor Casey has said ARC’s proposal may have been too rigid because council has already voted to issue a contract to Animal Damage Control.

“We cannot issue contracts frivolously and we are exposed to a number of processes, especially if it has already been awarded,” he said. “(ARC) is asking to cancel a process we have been in for six months and sole source them.” (Rocky Mountain Outlook, Dec.22/11)

Sally Caudill, Canmore spokesperson, said about the number of rabbits destined for Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society (EARS): "We will give Susan as many rabbits as she's capable of taking and then, after that, we will go ahead with the original plan, which is to trap and humanely euthanize and then send them to a wildlife rehab centre as feed." (CTV News, Dec.21/11)

January 25, 2012 After signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Town of Canmore earlier this month, the first group of 17 rabbits have been trapped and transferred to temporary quarters, in preparation for sterilization in Calgary.  According to volunteer members of the group, Concerned Albertans for Animal Welfare and Public Safety, they will be moved to permanent sanctuaries in the coming weeks. 

Canmore officials are declining to respond to questions such as how many rabbits there are actually estimated to be, whether someone is getting a kickback for the $50,000 contract if there are only 500 rabbits, and why the lack of transparency throughout this entire process. The media, for its part, seem to be more of a Public Relations team for the Mayor, and EARS spokesperson, Susan Vickery, is being extremely selective in what she feeds to reporters and what she posts on her blogspot. While there’s an ongoing request for donations, some people are asking how the money is being spent. More accountability and transparency, please. A democratic society depends on it. Don’t be silent on issues that matter to you.

Mayor Casey has joined the race for the Progressive Conservative (misnomer) nomination in the Banff-Cochrane riding. (update - he got it) The provincial election is planned for this spring.

February 2, 2012 More rabbits have been trapped and are ready for sterilization. Vickery says a mobile veterinary clinic will be coming next week. Dr. Lucie Choquette-Levy from the Mountain View Mobile Veterinary Care said they wanted to help and are donating their time. EARS has raised enough money to save 175 of the bunnies at a cost of $130.00 per rabbit. Calgary Animal Services donated the use of its high tech and high volume operating suite. The head of animal services, Bill Bruce, says it's not costing Calgary taxpayers any money.

February 20, 2012 Up to 200 rabbits will soon be ready for sanctuary placement after having being sterilized by veterinarians who have offered their services. This is only a small percentage of the rabbits that are reportedly running through the Town of Canmore. EARS has said it only has donations to cover a group of approximately 200, so in all probability the remaining ones be trapped, killed, and sent to a wildlife centre to be food as per the original plan. We feel that with the many humane and non-lethal measures available, there’s no reason to resort to costly, contentious, and archaic practices. Government has a social responsibility to be proactive and advance animal welfare, not hinder it by ignorance and the employment of eradication measures.

In correspondence with CTV reporter, Kevin Green, it was noted that the trapping will close at the end of March, as per the contract with the trapper and that EARS is optimistic their fundraising will keep up with trapping. So far EARS is the only group to work with the town. The rabbit sanctuaries are north and west of Calgary. Hopefully, there will be enough public pressure to ensure a rescue-friendly contract is put into play for the coming fiscal year. No rabbit should be sacrificed because of irresponsible, and uncaring human beings.

Calgary Herald photo of rabbit being sedated

March 14, 2012  Lack of public support, cash could seal fate of feral rabbits in Canmore reads the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press 03/12/12. Shortly after this article and several other posts appeared, it was announced on the EARS blog that 435 rabbits have sustainable, long-term support to date. (not true) That’s double the number from a couple of weeks ago.

April 12, 2012 Rabbit trapping ends this month

April 25, 2012 Just over 200 rabbits have gone to sanctuaries, not 400 as some reports have suggested. We have been unable to verify whether any were euthanized. Trapping will resume in the fall and it’s likely Canmore will renew its contract with EARS.

May 8, 2012 An update by the town on its Feral Rabbit Program indicates that the trapping of the critters ran from January until the end of March and 213 rabbits were successfully sterilized and are now living in local rabbit sanctuaries. A total of one hundred and eighty-nine (189) feral rabbits were captured over fifty-six (56) days of trapping and were all transferred to not-for-profit sanctuaries managed by Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society (EARS). There were no rabbits euthanized by the contractor: thirty-one (31) rabbits were born in captivity and seven (7) feral rabbits had to be euthanized by EARS under veterinary direction. This brings the total number of feral rabbits in sanctuaries to two-hundred and thirteen (213) The trapping is expected to resume again in October. “People are going to counter this right off by saying, ‘you stopped trapping in April, the population is just going to rebound plus.’ That’s not true,” says EARS spokesperson, Susan Vickery. She adds that feral populations experience an 80 per cent mortality rate in the first three weeks of their life and that it takes a while for populations to rebuild.

Several studies indicate that colonies can grow by 20 per cent every year if nothing is done. Natural predation and food supply can keep populations in check. The carrying capacity of a population is dependent on food and water supply, and obviously populations will fluctuate according to availability of resources.  

Rabbit population study from the Journal of Applied Ecology  

June 23, 2012 There are some concerns with how the rabbits are being cared for at the sanctuaries. It seems that EARS operator, Susan Vickery, is refusing to talk or work with any of the volunteers that are left nor is she providing donation money for the rabbits. The question everybody is asking is where is all that money. People donated for the rabbits and want accountability, not a disappearing act. 

October 11, 2012 Canmore's rabbit program to resume this month

October 15, 2012 Susan Vickery, EARS, has announced that she is “ready to take in the first rabbits trapped and relocate them to sanctuary.” She is soliciting additional financial donations and sanctuary space. 

November 1, 2012 We have received word from Canmore that trapping and gassing of the rabbits has begun. There has been no word from EARS as to any involvement, despite the charity having received plenty of donations for the rabbits in past months! Greg Burt, manager of Bylaw Services also indicated that there is just over $20,000 left over from the total feral rabbit management plan budget of $50,000 (approved in 2011) as well as a surplus in the bylaws budget for the work to resume. Concerned citizens have been contacting Canmore officials and the media as per issues. Further information can be found on Facebook's Sane Solutions for the Canmore Bunnies.

November 15, 2012 Town of Canmore slaughtering reputation as it slaughters feral rabbit population

Comment: Rabbits lose through no fault of their own. The town hasn’t budged from its criteria for relocation and may very well lose tourism dollars as people stay away. We have also been told that an existing sanctuary offered to take some more rabbits but was refused by EARS. Same old, same old – personalities, power, and politics. EARS Crocodile Tears

November 16, 2012 CTV reports on extermination of Canmore rabbits

Comment: Numerous remarks to news stories are from dim-witted anonymous sources who clearly have no regard for the lives of these animals. Some are downright hostile. That should be of concern to all of us. If, indeed, EARS received a box of mutilated stuffed rabbits it is extremely disturbing.  

It’s a shame that Canmore Town Council approved the gassing of the rabbits; a method of euthanasia considered cruel by organizations like the American Humane Society. Animal shelters in many US states ban the use of gas chambers, the most recent being Pennsylvania.  

Lethal control measures have proven to be costly, ongoing, and ineffective. The immorality of such draconian action that has innocent victims paying the price for human thoughtlessness and stupidity will result in failure, not a solution. 

Note: The extermination will continue for the rest of the year, and be reviewed in 2013.

November 20, 2012: Media outlets have reported that a kind-hearted couple with a farm in the Calgary area have offered to take up to 50 rabbits. Sally Caudill, spokesperson for the town, says it will continue with its eradication plan. A petition has been started opposing the scheme. Each time a supporter signs the petition, an email is automatically sent directly to the Mayor and Councillors. Click here: End the Slaughter of Pet Rabbits in Canmore

November 29, 2012 In today’s Rocky Mountain Outlook, it is confirmed that 50-70 rabbits will be moving to an acreage northwest of Calgary. According to independent counts, there are roughly 600 feral rabbits still roaming the town of Canmore, which will be trapped and euthanised unless more sanctuaries are found. An untold number have already been put down.

December 5, 2012 Letter by Carmina Gooch Gassing rabbits no solution 

December 12, 2012 Rabbit trapping pace hopped up thanks to public co-operation;
129 rabbits exterminated so far

Comment: Finally some figures on the numbers exterminated. “Euthanasia” is a euphemism often used inappropriately to hide the truth – in other words, to mislead and soften the reality of a situation.

December 2012 Animal Damage Control trappers spotted driving around town.

January 11, 2013 Despite an earlier media story that EARS/Susan Vickery, had found a location near Calgary to accept 50-70 of Canmore’s ‘feral’ rabbits, this doesn’t seem to have panned out. Kyndra Biggy, involved in the earlier rescue effort, says she has just spoken with town officials and the rabbits are “being gassed at an average rate of 6/day!” If you would like to help save the remaining rabbits or donate to the cause, the time is now. Sanctuary space has been confirmed. Please contact Kyndra via Facebook.

February 19, 2013 Last chance to help save the rabbits. This is a small group of local volunteers who are ready with everything except the funding to pay for the spays and neuters. Visit: http://canmorerabbitrescue.weebly.com to see how you can get involved. Time is of the essence!  All donations go directly to the rabbits.

March 15, 2013 Animal Damage Control will wind up its trapping before the end of the month as per the contract with the town. Canmore Rabbit Rescue is asking that those rabbits trapped over the next few days be sterilized and relocated to sanctuary. Sadly, only an estimated 50-70 remain while hundreds have been gassed. The group has applied for the contract next fall and will continue to fundraise for medical expenses.

April 9, 2013 Total rabbit cull (massacre) reaches 500

Comment: Many are saddened, but nobody is surprised that Canmore went ahead with the kill, as was its original intent. Combined with the controversial hiring and history/operations (UVic/Coombs) of the EARS charity, run by Susan Vickery, to relocate the rabbits, decision-makers probably decided it was easier to see the rabbits killed, using the deceased as a food source at a nearby wildlife rehabilitation centre. Meanwhile, Mr. Onischuk reported his application appeal against the Town of Canmore, heard in Calgary last week, went well. He is hoping that the media will one day report what has been hidden from the public rather than suppressing facts or going along with a false message.  

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. Abraham Lincoln ------ Don't be duped!

January 23, 2014 No Supreme Court hearing for defender of feral rabbits in Canmore, Alta.

Comment: Dan is to be commended for his tremendous efforts in bringing this matter to the Courts.

“Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” Henry David Thoreau

Update: Trapping for the winter 2013-2014 season is now complete, although the Town is still accepting proposals for sanctuaries. However, that’s unlikely. If you have questions or comments regarding rescue organizations contact us at: info@rabbitadvocacy.com 

March 6, 2020 The Town of Canmore’s official stance on the feral domestic rabbits, according to Robyn Dinnadge, Manager of Communications, is that they are a “wildlife attractant.” Dangerous wildlife like cougars and coyotes are drawn into town by the presence of the rabbits. Therefore, the town’s program to euthanize feral rabbits continues. However, Canmore’s lack of conservation action hasn’t discouraged residents like Nicole Rainey from their own personal crusades to save the rabbits. (Source: Lonely Planet)

NB July 17, 2018: The town says about 1,200 rabbits have been destroyed so far, but about 1,000 remain. It says it plans to continue the program. (Source: CBC News)

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