Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


The Nanaimo Rabbits: Located near the airport south of Nanaimo a colony of several hundred feral domestic rabbits can be found alongside the highway.  This large population is well-established and began when pet owners decided the easiest way to rid themselves of their unwanted companion was to set he or she loose.  Abandonment is rampant and colonies are widespread throughout the world.

Domestic rabbits of today are from the common wild rabbit of Western Europe and once released into the environment have a very high mortality rate, generally not surviving more than six months to a year.  Among their predators are coyotes, dogs, wild cats, people, and birds of prey. Others are killed by cars or succumb to stress, hunger, sickness, or injury.      




In the Fall of 2007, a Nanaimo resident told us that the rabbit population appeared to have all but disappeared.  Passersby to the ferry used to stop their vehicles to feed the bunnies and a small group of area residents made it their mission to provide greens to these abandoned critters, especially during the winter months.  On our visit it was apparent that something had happened to the majority of the population.  There were very few rabbits in an empty lot, and none beside the road.  We tried to find an answer as to what happened, and while official sources weren't forthcoming, word soon began to spread that somebody had given orders to bump off the bunnies.   

In February of 2008, we couldn't see any rabbits.  We spoke to a fellow in the RV lot, where many had made their home, but he claimed to know nothing about what happened.  Our conclusion is that indeed, these bunnies were quietly destroyed.  Yet again, we have human beings, intent on wiping out every other living creature, and their homes, probably because of some perceived nuisance or inconvenience.  

Our letter of November 5, 2007 to Nanaimo's Mayor and Council illustrates our ongoing efforts to have municipal councils address the issue of selling intact rabbits in pet stores.  

Dear Mayor Gary Richard Korpan and Council: 

The Agreement between Petcetera and the BC SPCA re: Rabbits   

The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC's mandate is to speak out on behalf of the plight of domestic rabbits, namely those who are exploited by the pet industry. 

In a recent visit to the City of Nanaimo an animal welfare matter that we believe deserves Councilís attention and possible intervention is that of continued sales of pet rabbits.  

Earlier this year the BC SPCA agreed to provide Petcetera retail outlets with abandoned or surrendered rabbits that had already been spayed or neutered and that were in need of new homes.  An enclosed press clipping provides a brief rationale for the agreement.  This agreement has been fully implemented in the Petcetera retail outlets throughout the Lower Mainland. 

However, the Petcetera Nanaimo retail location and the Nanaimo SPCA have failed to implement the program.  This retail location continues to do business under an unacceptable commercial arrangement by obtaining baby rabbits from wholesale breeders.  Because of the "cuteness" factor they are most often purchased on impulse and subsequently dumped once the novelty has worn off.  The rabbits, taxpayers, and the community all pay the price for this.  

There may be some explanation as to why this commitment has not been honoured but all our correspondence to both Petcetera and the BC SPCA has gone unanswered. 

Increasingly our societal values reject "euthanasia" as a morally unacceptable solution to pet abandonment or surrender.  Finding homes for abandoned or surrendered pets, of which there is a serious overpopulation crisis, is a core value that I believe we all share.     

The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC, Pets In Need Society, Pacific Animal Foundation and a network of concerned animal welfarists/advocates respectfully requests that Council address this matter.  Under section 8(3)(k) of the Community Charter Council may regulate, prohibit and impose requirements in relation to animals.  European rabbits are listed in the Environment and Wildlife Regulation as an "alien invasive species", and therefore the sale of European (domestic) rabbits may be prohibited.        

While we recognize that the entire issue of unregulated breeding needs to be addressed, eliminating the impulse buy is a step in the right direction. Our campaign, newspaper ads and online petition can be viewed on our websites. 

We look forward to hearing from you on this issue and would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.  

Carmina Gooch
North Vancouver


BC SPCA March Newsletter

Hop to Adopt!

The BC SPCA and Petcetera Stores have announced a new partnership to reduce the number of homeless and abandoned rabbits in BC. Beginning April 1st, Petcetera will no longer sell rabbits, but instead will serve as a satellite adoption centre for rabbits rescued by the BC SPCA. The program will begin in all Lower Mainland Petcetera Stores on April 2nd and will be in place in Petcetera locations across BC by September 1st.

The BC SPCA rescues more than 1,700 rabbits every year in its 36 branches across BC. "There is a growing problem in BC with pet guardians who don't spay or neuter their rabbits or who just abandon them to fend for themselves," says Craig Daniell, CEO of the BC SPCA. "This has led to an ever-increasing number of homeless rabbits in our shelters." Daniell says the new Petcetera partnership is a significant step forward in addressing the issue.


Comment: Rescue groups take in more rabbits than all the BC SPCA branches combined.
Pet abandonment is an offence under the BC PCA Act and the animal cruelty provisions of Canada's Criminal Code. Judging by the numbers dumped, people just don't care what they do with their unwanted pet.

February 21, 2009 Feral rabbit population explodes in Nanaimo

February 20, 2012 VIU officials renew calls for people not to feed campus rabbits

April 2012 On our trip to Victoria, we stopped at Sidney to see if the small group of abandoned rabbits was still around. They have been making their home in and around several commercial businesses and nearby residences. The people don't seem to mind their presence, and one fellow was quite pleased to see us take an interest in the bunnies. 

July 5, 2012 Government biologist suggests lethal measures for Nanaimo rabbits

November 27, 2012  Some North Saanich residents worried about rabbit explosion

April 18, 2013 Nanaimo couple capture and relocate free-roaming rabbits

Comment: European rabbits are considered ďwildlifeĒ under the B.C. Wildlife Act with the government requiring permits to capture, transport, and house ferals. Yet, this couple and others donít bother to jump through the hoops. Obviously, thereís no enforcement with officials turning a blind eye or choosing not to get involved. From the Nanaimo Daily News 04/23/13 In their back yard, the couple built a large wooden hutch where they keep the animals safe and secure. For a while, they were releasing the bunnies outside the city, off Doumont Road, but they now "re-home" them, after the SPCA told them moving wildlife is illegal.  

September 15, 2013 On our trip to Vancouver Island we were somewhat surprised to see a dead rabbit alongside the Trans Canada Highway directly opposite the Nanaimo Airport. We also saw another one just watching the traffic go by. On previous visits we had not seen any in that particular spot, although European rabbits are plentiful throughout the Nanaimo Regional District and the rest of Vancouver Island. We stopped by a Sidney RV dealership and were pleased to see a salesman feeding rabbits on the patio. He said that hawks and feral cats keep the population in check. 

October 20, 2013 We were advised by several employees at the RV centre located beside the Nanaimo Airport that eagles and hawks have kept the rabbit population in check, with the babies and young adults most often carried off. However, on several recent trips we did not see any rabbits anywhere on site.

December 9, 2013 Sound familiar? Rabbits multiply at Vancouver Island University

Comment: Other estimates of the UVic rabbit population were put at around 1000. When the University announced it planned to exterminate them, people began removing them.

From the NDN Oct. 6, 2011 - VIU student study examines monthly rabbit population cycle trends over 10-month period No one is currently proposing a cull for VIU, and nor is it expected any time soon. Should the topic arise it would be useful to at least know how large the rabbit population is, for starters. "The fact is, we don't even know how many rabbits there are on campus," said Liz Gillis, faculty supervisor of VIU's resource management officers technology program. Gillis suggested the study to Megan Jenkins, who was looking for a topic for an ecological project earlier this year.

April 4, 2015 Our contacts in the vicinity of Nanaimo have advised us that abandoned domestic rabbits are being spotted more frequently again. Part of this is due to redevelopment proposals that are underway and because existing populations continually reproduce. A news headline reads Nanaimo overrun with feral rabbits. 

Despite plenty of publicity by rabbit advocates and humane societies reminding people to think before adding a bunny to their household, not everyone is listening. Another reminder -- do not get a live rabbit for Easter.

April 19, 2015 The BC SPCA has seized about 50 rabbits, housed in tiny, filthy cages from a Nanaimo property. It continues with its cruelty investigation.  

Rabbit Advocacy volunteers have visited a number of backyard breeding establishments over the years, and itís been truly heartbreaking. These gentle critters are exploited solely for financial gain and most often not provided with even the basic necessities that constitute any degree of animal welfare. Sadly, rabbits are considered multi-purpose animals and the business is an unforgiving and merciless one. 

Update: April 22, 2015 CBC News

SPCA seizes 50 rabbits from Nanaimo property

The B.C. SPCA says it seized 50 rabbits that were being raised for meat but were living in substandard conditions on a Vancouver Island property.

The society says it received a complaint about animals living in distress near Nanaimo, B.C. After the owner failed to take steps to relieve the distress of the animals, officers moved in on April 17.

"We found a large number of animals living in substandard conditions Ė many were being kept in very small cages, others had no shelter, there was poor ventilation, excessive garbage and debris throughout the property and many of the animals had inadequate food or water," said animal protection officer Tina Heary.

Several of the animals were underweight and suffering from dental issues, she said, and a small-breed dog was also taken into custody that needed veterinary care. The SPCA will recommend charges of animal cruelty be laid, said Heary.

Note: The breeder was raising the animals for food and to show. BC SPCA officers say they found the rabbits stuffed in cages so small the animals had no room to move, with many malnourished and sickly and several dead. This isnít uncommon. Tina Heary, animal protection officer with the BC SPCA says "This isn't the first time we've dealt with rabbit breeders who breed for the show ring and for their own consumption."  

Those wishing to adopt a rabbit can view those that are still available online at www.spca.bc.ca. They will be spayed and neutered first. Letís hope there will be a conviction in this horrendous case.

April 22, 2015 SPCA seize rabbits found in 'horrendous' conditions

December 1, 2016 Seems like a few residents in a South Nanaimo subdivision are upset with the number of dumped domestic rabbits and their offspring coming onto their property. (Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin, Feral rabbits concern to south Nanaimo neighbourhood This issue is nothing new. There is an inordinate amount of development in this particular area, displacing not only rabbits but other wildlife who have made this their home for decades. Perhaps we should slow down our population growth, show some compassion, and stop destroying the habitat of other species trying to survive. And people, be responsible Ė spay or neuter your pet and remember itís a lifelong commitment!

April 10, 2017 A new strain of Lyme disease has been found on Vancouver Island. The bacteria, borrelia genomospecies 2, has been detected in ticks feeding on eastern cottontail rabbits on the Island. (CHEK News)

August 14, 2017 Nanaimo City Council will be discussing a motion to ban the sale of cats, dogs & rabbits in stores after recent correspondence from Leon Davis, manager of the Cityís SPCA. The Rabbit Advocacy Group also wrote Mayor McKay, councillors, and other departments regarding this matter. We have done so in the past, as well. Domestic rabbit colonies can be found throughout the Regional District of Nanaimo, including on the Nanaimo SPCA acreage. Concurrently, there are many rabbit breeders plying their trade, unchecked.    

It was highlighted that new amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act be expanded to include a regulatory or licensing system for rabbit breeders, as well as for those who breed dogs & cats.

December 12, 2017 UPDATE The motion to regulate retail sales of dogs, cats and rabbits failed. Council wants more information before deciding whether to proceed.

Related: Feral rabbits becoming a 'problem' in Powell River

Rabbits left to fend for themselves; the struggle to survive; Colony Farm bunnies; 100 rabbits dumped on remote Utah road 2016

Abandoned rabbits in Ladner/Delta and Mission; relocation 2012, Env. Ministry; predation, dumping consequences; Jan./18 park rabbits shot

Calgary in quandary over proliferating rabbits; Banff proactive; jackrabbits victims of savagery; 2017 feral rabbits aplenty

BC municipalities starting to prohibit rabbit sales in pet stores; UBCM resolution passes; letters; Vancouver 2017

Visit our Pet Shops/Rabbits/Legislation page to read more!

Be sure to visit our Rescue, In Memory, Facts page! Includes Domestic Rabbit Abandonment & Rabbit Multiplication
and Pasteurellosis and other illnesses; food pyramid; 2018 deadly rabbit virus hits mid-Van. Island, spreads beyond; hits lower mainland