Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
The Killing Streets of Kelowna
Saturday, 04 October 2008 GreenMuze Staff (online)
Something ugly is brewing in Kelowna, British Columbia. In a city long known for its hospitality and beauty, an unpleasant confrontation has started to garner international attention. Animal rights' activists are pitted squarely against the Kelowna Mayor and Council members – the issue at the heart of the controversy are the wild rabbits whose population is estimated to be between 1,500 to 2,000.
The issue dividing sleepy Kelowna isn’t that there are too many rabbits, but what exactly should be done with these creatures. Should they be relocated, euthanized or spayed and given to new homes? The opinions are varied.
The Kelowna Mayor and Councillors hired a contractor who has been shooting the rabbits. Then in September, a security guard said that the contractor and a female companion killed a rabbit by stomping on it, reported the CBC News. Currently there is a temporary stop order on the rabbit shooting.
City officials didn’t count on the fact that the plight of the Kelowna rabbits would garner international attention. Animal rights' activists are trying to humanely trap them so they can be relocated, the SPCA has issued a statement that they don’t endorse violence against animals and People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has issued an advisory encouraging individuals to put pressure on the Kelowna Mayor and Councillors. Amongst all the controversy, Sinikka Crosland, president of TRACS (The Responsible Animal Care Society) in Kelowna, is working tirelessly to get people to pay attention to what is happening to the rabbits. We caught up with her to ask just what the hell is going on in Kelowna?
Could you give us some background on the Kelowna rabbits?
This spring, the City of Kelowna hired a contractor (EBB Environmental Consulting) to address the growing feral rabbit population in Kelowna. EBB's stated method of dealing with feral rabbits is "culling". In response to public pressure, EBB (in conjunction with City Parks) stated that they would manage the rabbits in three ways: giving them to rescue groups, killing them by lethal injection, and shooting them.
Unknown to many, the third strategy was launched first. EBB's hired gun managed to kill 400 rabbits before a security guard on night duty happened to witness an incident of cruelty, whereby the shooter and his daughter proceeded to stomp a wounded rabbit rather than applying a second pellet to the animal.
What is your role in trying to stop the cull?
TRACS has rescued 350 rabbits to date. We will continue to take them out of harm's way, sterilize them, and place them into foster homes/sanctuaries as funds permit. We will also continue to speak out in the community and beyond in regards to the poor ethics involved in resorting to lethal means when non-lethal solutions are available.
Who else is involved?
The SPCA has now stepped in, although they have stated that cruelty charges cannot be pursued. B.C. legislation does not cover wildlife, and federal anti-cruelty statutes are too weak to cover cases like this. I note that the issue is also on PETA's website as an alert.
Can the rabbit killing be stopped?
We hope so. We'll keep on fighting. We are actually fighting a system of insensitivity and bureaucracy. The B.C. Ministry of Wildlife has placed rabbits in "Class C"- a classification that is afforded very little protection. They are considered "invasive species" and "pests". Anyone can kill rabbits, and then it's up to the SPCA and the RCMP to prove cruelty in individual cases.
Why are they shooting the rabbits rather than relocating them?
We believe that this is because of expediency and there is a cost factor. It is cheaper to shoot rabbits rather than to sterilize and relocate them. The shooting was done in the night to avoid confrontation with people.
How has the public responded?
The Mayor states that 500 letters have been received (I'm not sure if that is recently or over a period of time). Hundreds of residents have attended our rabbit rallies. TRACS has sent numerous letters to our legislators and has made many phone calls. Local schools are speaking out, and petition signatures total in the thousands.
Are these wild rabbits or domesticated rabbits?
These are mainly the offspring of domesticated rabbits, descendants of wild European hares.
How many will be killed?
Here again, EBB cannot get its numbers straight. We've seen estimates of 700-2000 rabbits. That's quite a range.
Who is doing the actual shooting?
A retired RCMP officer working with his daughter; EBB arranged for this pair to do the shooting.
Has PETA’s interest helped?
In the sense that the City has mentioned it; clearly they are uncomfortable with having become a PETA target.
Have members of the public been trying to help the rabbits?
Yes, in addition to TRACS, we have noted many private individuals and families out there catching rabbits.
What can people do to help?
Keep pressuring the City of Kelowna to do the right thing and end the contract with EBB, as the SPCA has requested in a recent media release. Also encourage them to hire one or more animal welfare groups to catch, sterilize and relocate. EBB has been ordered by the City of Kelowna to stop shooting rabbits until a review is completed (next week), but they are still allowed to live-trap and would likely take the rabbits away to be killed. TRACS welcomes footage and photos of EBB in action.
PETA targets rabbit cull
Alert inundates Kelowna City Hall with e-mails
KELOWNA, B.C. -- Officials at Kelowna City Hall say they've been inundated with e-mails after an animal rights organization listed B.C. city's rabbit-cull program on its website.
PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, based in Norfolk, Va., - listed the rabbit-killing program in Kelowna as an "alert" on its website. As of noon Friday, about 60 e-mails from people who read the website had arrived.
Since the rabbit-culling program first became public, the city has received some 650 e-mails, most opposing the program. City official Lesley Driscoll says many e-mails came from the United States but a handful were from as far away as Croatia.
The PETA site has condemned the city's contractor, EBB Environmental Consulting, for shooting the rabbits. The alert provides e-mail addresses for mayor and council and a general address for the city hall.
The city suspended the shooting of rabbits after it came to light that an EBB employee had stomped one of the rabbits to death after a shot from an air rifle did not kill the animal. EBB is still trapping the rabbits, but the whole program will be before council tomorrow for review.
Parks manager Joe Creron says there have been problems trapping the animals. People have been feeding them, so they aren't attracted to the bait in the traps, he says.
Comment: The gruesome way in which this rabbit met his/her end highlights the need for Canada to strengthen federal anti-cruelty laws. Proving “wilfful intent” is virtually impossible under the Criminal Code, leaving perpetrators to get away with horrendous crimes to “unowned” animals. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act does not apply to “wildlife,” under BC’s Wildlife Act.
Mammals, like domestic rabbits released into the environment, are placed in “Class C” regulations, a classification that is afforded very little (or no) protection. There were recent amendments made to the Act, but no legislation that would protect introduced or alien species, which is the current status of the European rabbit. They are not included under the “Definition of Domestic Animal.”
The Ministry of Environment has not removed inappropriate terms like “pest” or “nuisance” wildlife from the Act, which is another concern. Lack of training, regulations, and enforcement of the “pest” control industry in BC must be regulated and subject to standards and regulations.
The contractor, a retired police officer, hired by EBB to annihilate the Kelowna rabbits was granted a permit by the RCMP. OUR MUNICIPAL, PROVINCIAL, AND FEDERAL LEGISLATION ALL NEEDS TO CHANGE. BE THE ONE TO SPEAK OUT.
Comment: We visited the Kelowna rabbits in September, shortly after the murder spree had begun. 400 lives gone. Anybody who can kill like this is someone society should be very concerned about. Everybody who had a hand in this, either directly or indirectly is also a person I'd worry about. What sort of message has this sent future generations? Bloodshed offers no solution and has no place in any civilized society. Carmina Gooch