Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


April, 2006

“Nature Trail to Hell?”

With Easter looming on the horizon, the many groups who work to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome BCs thousands of abandoned and surrendered rabbits give a wince and sigh, and once again gird their collective loins in an effort to raise awareness that the Easter Bunny, far from being a happy little hoppy, is on the nature trail to hell – or at least a miserable existence in a number of cases.

As the third most popular “interactive pet”, rabbits continue to be sold from lower mainland pet stores, the most noteable of which is Petcetera. According to information we have gleaned from Petcetera staff, the number of rabbits brought in weekly to individual Petcetera stores ranges from 1-2, to 6.

Multiply this by the number of Petcetera locations and it would seem that a warren’s worth of rabbits is being sold by Petcetera monthly. Add to this Petcetera’s plans to become what appears to be the Starbucks of the pet livestock world (a baby bunny on every corner, just think!) and a less pastoral Easter picture emerges.

With both baby rabbits and their prospective new companion humans largely unprotected under current municipal legislation, you might think that any responsible pet store chain with a professed and much publicized interest in animal welfare would do their best to provide adequate information about the animals they sell. Again, we can only state that it has been exceedingly difficult to obtain any information from Petcetera that would reflect current best practices with regards to rabbit welfare.

If their rabbit care flyer is anything to go by, it’s thoroughly acceptable to cram a baby rabbit into a small 30” cage it will likely outgrow and stuff it full of what can only be termed rabbit junk food. No mention of spay/neuter. No mention of the need to have free run time several hours a day. … But then, Petcetera is the business that displays its rabbits in fish tank housing, and that regularly advertises sale priced bunnies. (some with only minor health issues)

And speaking of both running and things diabolical isn’t there a saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Perhaps the BC SPCA decided to run straight down that path with the buns when it implemented its pilot adoption program with Petcetera. Naturally, the SPCA was full of good intentions, but I don’t know how it expected people not to shake their heads a little at the irony of Petcetera selling and, in conjunction with the SPCA, offering rabbits for adoption.

Is the SPCA monitoring the levels of information provided about rabbits and the frequency with which it is provided? I don’t know, but if it is they should be made aware that this information seems only rarely to make it to anyone who professes an interest in rabbits. Perhaps a more forceful “reminder” to Petcetera by the SPCA might be in order at this point in time? Or training Petcetera staff in rabbit welfare? Or something … anything…?

Of course, with the SPCA having no say in Petcetera’s retail policies, and Petcetera as part of the pet industry firmly ensconsed in the belief that responsibility lies with the consumer, what is a poor bun/bun-lover to do? It’s either the rabbit’s fault (it was a “bad bunny”) if it gets surrendered or –according to the pet industry - the “owner’s” fault for not getting sufficient information. Perhaps PIJAC members should try walking into a Petcetera and getting some adequate info on rabbits, and good luck to them if they do, because Heaven knows, we’ve tried without success.

In the meanwhile, bunnies are hopping up everywhere, from Telus ads to Easter promotions of all kinds. So this year, let’s make it a truly happy Easter for some buns. Be an angel and:

  • adopt from one of the growing number of organizations that help rabbits, don’t buy;
  • save a life by spending time on researching what’s out there on rabbit welfare and behaviour, not by spending money on inadequate food and housing;
  • and support rabbit advocacy as well as well-intentioned attempts to address the issue of the growing numbers of rabbits abandoned and in need of re-homing.

Sue Collard
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC

Comment:  The Rabbit Advocacy Group continues to press for ending sales of rabbits in pet stores, and ideally, of all creatures.  It's a real battle, and The Province newspaper's recent picture (March, 2006) of a child holding a baby bunny right before Easter, didn't help matters.  Letters to the editor, like the following, were among the many written expressing similar sentiments.      

Editor Re: Picture of the Day

I was absolutely stunned to see the huge "Picture of the Day" of a young boy holding a baby rabbit. It was most inappropriate as rabbits are prey animals and do not like to be picked up or held, and to present such a picture to the public is very misleading. Just check out the many shelters, parks, and rescue organizations that are overflowing with discarded “pet” rabbits, just like this one, likely bought for a child. And by the way, why would Aldor Acres be breeding their rabbits, when there is an overpopulation crisis?

Carmina Gooch, North Vancouver

Editor Re: Picture of the Day

The "Picture of the Day" depicting a young child holding a baby bunny is not a cute one. It perpetuates an inaccurate belief that children and rabbits are a good match.

This is far from the truth. A number of animal welfare organizations are trying to educate the public about this sort of stereotyping, but the message appears not to have reached everyone.

Perhaps a public service announcement discouraging rabbits as Easter gifts for children or one that promotes the benefits of companion rabbits being spayed or neutered, rather than being bred, would better reflect our changing times.

Terry Roberge, North Vancouver

Visit our Rabbit Issues & Advocacy page

Be sure to visit our Websites/Articles page to see some of the organizations working to make our world a better place for animals.

Justice for animals is the social movement of our times and we must all participate to make it a reality. It’s long overdue. Carmina Gooch