Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Letter questioned

September 29, 2011 Canmore Leader

Canmore is once again facing a group opposed to its proposed feral rabbit solution that might include a rabbit cull.

A letter cautioning the Town of Canmore was met with some incredulity by some on Canmore's council this week. In a strongly worded letter dated Sept. 19 the Humane Society of Canada called Canmore's plan to trap the town's feral rabbit population untenable.

Michael O'Sullivan, chairman and CEO, of the Humane Society of Canada addressed the letter to Mayor Ron Casey. "Not only is it inhumane, it's not going to accomplish what you want," he said Monday. O'Sullivan called it a "dumb" idea and said that the reason they would indeed consider legal action to stop the plan is because "this kind of short 'fix solution' will catch on. "It's not helping animals and it's not helping people."

O'Sullivan though did level his harshest criticism at those who started the problem, saying: "If it's possible, track down the people who let the rabbits go in the first place they need to be held to account for what they're doing."

He said those responsible for the rabbit population in Canmore ought to be held to account "because now they've created a problem where people are talking about killing large numbers of animals to satisfy a political solution."

The letter begins: " I am writing to you in my capacity as Chairman & CEO of The Humane Society of Canada and on behalf of the millions of Albertans and Canadians who share our views of protecting animals and their environment to ask you once again to work with us for a humane effective solution for the rabbits of Canmore."

Mayor Ron Casey said Monday that he had not seen the letter other than having received it second hand. He said that he didn't know of any previous attempt by the Humane Society of Canada to get involved in the rabbit situation in Canmore. He said that the Humane Society ought to be concerned with the welfare of the wild animals here that are "put at risk every day" by the feral rabbit population.

"We're not the same as every other little community that they deal with," he said. "And they same to feel which is a bizarre contradiction in my mind that it is all right to put the natural species here at risk so that a feral rabbit can have a home. "I'm sorry but that just does not work in this environment, or this community." Coun. Hans Helder had not seen the letter Monday either.

"My point of view on this is that he (Michael O'Sullivan) is trying to politicize (the issue)," he said. "We very clearly articulated our position that this is a matter of dealing with a wildlife attractant issue that makes it a health and safety issue. "And it's very consistent with Canmore's plans and implementation of those plans over the last decade or more, in dealing with wildlife conflict issues and reducing the risk of those by taking pro-active action. "This is just another form of doing that." He noted that the request for proposal process did include the option for spaying and neutering rabbits and sending them to sanctuaries.

Casey was also concerned by the letter. "If they were truly interested in solutions they would have contacted us long before this," Casey said. He noted that there might be "no kill groups" among those who have submitted bids on the RFP. (That information will only become public when council is briefed on the RFP process in council chambers.) "I always question someone who comes along late in the game and threatens us with legal action," he said. "I'm not clear what their motivation is here."

O'Sullivan explained his "late arrival" though as well. "We tend to watch and wait and see what happens," he said. "Sometimes, because these become political issues, they fade from sight and there's no reason for us to become involved." O'Sullivan said that a contractor who had submitted a bid in the Canmore RFP process had contacted them "twisting their words" and who "made it seem like we were agreeing with what he was proposing."  "We've had people try to do this to us before," O'Sullivan said. "They've never done this successfully.

"There is no species on the planet that gets up every morning and causes more damage to its environment than human beings: anything an animal does pales in comparison," O'Sullivan said. Treating feral rabbits as threats to indigenous animal populations that ought to be removed, he called "absolute nonsense."  "Some issues don't have a 100 per cent solution that satisfies everyone.

"When there is a problem," O'Sullivan said, "In some cases, you just live with it. While we're talking right now, unfortunately someone's in the middle of a car accident." He said the Humane Society of Canada would be willing to work with Canmore's people, noting he did not necessarily mean working with Canmore politicians.

Helder also said that the response to Canmore's proposed feral rabbit management plan was a matter of "coming rather late in the game to offer an intervention when there was a lot of opportunity to do so." And he took issue with the fact that the people here were not behind a Town solution. "It's not a scientific result, but I could say based on my election campaign last fall, public opinion was 90 per cent in favour of taking some action to eliminate the feral rabbit population."

Canmore council was presented with administration's proposed plan for handling the feral rabbit population on June 14 and council directed administration to issue a request for proposals July 5. The RFP process closed at the beginning of September.

Casey said that the community at large has been relatively quiet on the issue and that the only feedback he's really received from the community is that "they want us to get on with it." He said his understanding is that the relative quiet on the subject is due to the fact that the community sees the Town as moving forward and that the community wants Canmore to move forward on the issue."

Helder summed up the position expressed in the letter in this way: "It's an opinion and it's clearly a strongly felt opinion, but it doesn't seem to be based on any factual information."