Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Up to 1,000 rabbits get OK to move to Texas farm

August 18, 2010 Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist  

Call it a green card for bunnies. Up to 1,000 University of Victoria rabbits have the go-ahead to move to Texas, after the Environment Ministry approved a transport and export permit.

Laura-Leah Shaw, a Vancouver-Quadra Green Party candidate who has been working to save the feral rabbits, is ironing out details for shipping the animals to the Wild Rose Rescue Ranch, a 20-hectare rehabilitation farm in eastern Texas.

The university is planning to trap and either kill or sterilize and relocate up to 1,400 rabbits that are overrunning the campus, leaving only about 200 animals in a designated area.

UVic had hoped to trap most of the animals this month before students return to classes, but rabbit activist Roslyn Cassells obtained a B.C. Supreme Court injunction preventing the captures. The case heads back to court Friday and the delay has allowed time for sanctuaries to obtain permits, meaning there is no excuse for killing them, Cassells said.

The Texas permit is the end of a long process that started July 1 after Shaw phoned animal sanctuaries across North America and finally found a welcome mat in Texas. Permission to move bunnies across borders was needed from myriad U.S. state and federal departments, she said.

"But the U.S. was much easier to deal with than B.C. In the U.S., feral rabbits are not deemed wildlife. They are domestic animals, which, of course, these guys are," Shaw said.

In B.C., the dumped former pets and their offspring come under the Wildlife Act, meaning adopting them out is a complicated process, with approved sanctuaries having to obtain permits.

All the rabbits will be spayed or neutered before heading to Texas, with the help of a $50,000 donation from the Fur-Bearer Defenders. They will also be given time to acclimatize to the warmer Texas weather, staying at first in a 600-square-foot air-conditioned facility, Shaw said.

Later, the UVic bunnies will be kept in special enclosures near the creek and woods, said Georganne Lenham, founder of the Wild Rose Rescue Ranch and a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Meanwhile, a small sanctuary in Cowichan Station has a permit for up to 60 rabbits, while an Environment Ministry inspection took place Monday at a new sanctuary being built at the World Parrot Refuge near Coombs by Susan Vickery of Common Ground, a Saltspring Island wildlife organization.

The Coombs sanctuary will take up to 350 rabbits once it receives a permit. "I am very relieved that this is going to resolve itself in a few days. It's good news for the rabbits," said Vickery after hearing about the Texas permit.

In addition to the spay and neuter fund, another $40,000 has been collected to help build sanctuaries and care for the rabbits. However, Shaw said donations are still needed to pay for transporting the rabbits to Texas. Also, Cassells is appealing for donations to help her hire a lawyer for Friday's court hearing.

Comment: Tom Smith, UVic Facilities Mgmt. wants over 400 rabbits removed, sterilized, and transported to sanctuary before September 2nd. This is another huge hurdle and if the requirements aren’t met, it’ll be bad news for the innocent victims of this institution. Nothing’s been made easy during this process, either by the MoE or UVic. Why?

Bunny population booming

People keep releasing unwanted rabbits

Aug 19, 2010 Tamara Slobogean   

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - It's not just a problem at the University of Victoria anymore. The local bunny population is booming too, because people just keep on releasing their unwanted rabbits.

Local shelters don't have room, so Carmina Gooch with the
Rabbit Advocacy Group of B.C. says misguided pet owners who are tired of the responsibility, dump bunnies from Jericho Beach to parks in Ladner, Richmond and Port Coquitlam.

She says most of the animals haven't been spayed or neutered. "The municipalities have to be pro-active; government has to - all levels of government, really and get some by-laws passed prohibiting the sale of unsterilized rabbits."

Gooch says most local colonies are offspring of released domestic rabbits. Pet abandonment may be illegal, but she's says that hasn't been enough to stop the problem so far.   

Poll: Should there be a ban on selling unsterilized rabbits? Yes: 81% No: 19

August 20, 2010 After a full day in Supreme Court before Mr. Justice Cullen listening to arguments from both sides of the UVic rabbit issue, the date for the decision has been scheduled for August 25, 2010 at 9 am. Meanwhile, the injunction still stands. In the Notice of Application to Roslyn Cassells,  UVic sought the Order of Madame Justice Kloegman be set aside or varied, and that it be awarded costs of the application. As to legal basis, it argues that Ms. Cassells has no standing to bring the action, lacking the requisite legal interest in the fate of the UVic rabbits. Furthermore, it was stated that “there is no indication that any private right or special damage would be inflicted on Ms. Cassells as a result of the UVic Management Plan. With regard to prima facie case it was put that “there is no credible evidence that UVic has acted or is acting in breach of the Wildlife Act. The Notice of Application is with the Vancouver Registry: No. 105400  

Meanwhile, the Coombs permit has been approved. An amendment has been sought regarding sanctuary space in a nearby location.

More and more people are hearing about the rabbits with one Facebook reader saying she had just returned from a cruise to Alaska and stopped in Victoria. The tour bus driver drove past the UVic campus, and gave considerable commentary on the plight of the bunnies. Apparently, other drivers are doing the same. Another person remarked that rabbits coming to the US will be arriving as political refugees. Donations for UVic rabbits going south of the border can be made through TRACS. 

August 24, 2010 Roslyn Cassells has informed us that the scheduled hearing for tomorrow will not take place. Additional documents were filed today. Mr. Justice Cullen will render his decision in writing on or before August 30th. This case is very interesting, to say the least.

Judgment day is Monday, August 30th, with the reasons (in writing) for the ruling to come at a later date. Tom Smith, facilities management at UVic, says he expects the Court to rule in favour of the University and have the injunction overturned. This would mean trapping could resume immediately, and while he expresses plans to work with permit holders to save as many rabbits as possible, a “surplus” could mean death to some. The Ministry of Environment has made it known that because these particular rabbits reside on private land and are Schedule C wildlife, UVic can control the population as they see fit as long as they abide by the regulations set forth under the Wildlife Act as well as city and municipal guidelines and bylaws. Meanwhile, a lawyer specializing in animal rights law has expressed a willingness to work on this case as well as ongoing litigation for the rabbits.

August 30, 2010 BC Supreme Court Mr. Justice A. F. Cullen has set aside the temporary injunction dated 07/30/10 that blocked the University from trapping the rabbits residing on campus grounds. He concluded that the petitioner had failed to establish that she had the requisite standing to bring forward the application. Trapping is expected to resume immediately. While the sanctuaries can ultimately take in all the rabbits from campus, they are restricted to holding a specific number of rabbits at any one time based on terms in their Ministry of Environment permits.  This "holding" period refers to the time between the rabbit being given to a sanctuary representative, transported to a veterinarian, sterilized, tattooed, recuperation from surgery, and transported to the home sanctuary.  While a sanctuary is "holding" this group, it cannot take more rabbits until they have all been completely processed.

Thus, if a sanctuary has a capacity of 400 rabbits, and a holding cap of 100, they can only do approximately 100 rabbits a week. If the collective sanctuaries, for example, can take 300 in the first week, and the University traps 500, the “surplus” could be killed. Tom Smith, UVic’s executive director of facilities
management said the University anticipates that there will be enough capacity in various sanctuaries to handle all the rabbits they intend to trap in August and September.

Lawyer H. David Edinger, representing UVic, submitted to the Court: "UVic's first choice is to fill all the sanctuary places on a reasonable schedule, taking into account the speed with which rabbits may be processed by veterinarians and transported under applicable permits" (see p. 23, section (47) of the Reasons for Judgement in the Citation - Cassells v. University of Victoria 2010 BCSC 1213 Date 20100803)

Ms. Cassells’ newly acquired legal counsel, Mr. Robin D. Bajer has said that every effort will be made to hold UVic to this undertaking. Activists will keep on with their struggle to have new laws created to provide rabbits and other animal species with much-needed protection in this province.  

Read the Judgment

September 6, 2010 With just over 100 rabbits captured and turned over to permitted sanctuaries approved by the MoE, it's been hectic for the volunteers and veterinarians involved in the process. More rabbits are expected to be trapped and sterilized this week.  According to a University press release dated 8/30/10, trapping was to be suspended during the busy orientation and Weeks of Welcome events because of increased activity. UVic hopes to trap 400 to 500 rabbits during this month, primarily in the area of the university residences.  

Meanwhile, an excerpt from today's Ubyssey, 'UVic hops into more rabbit drama,'  says that "the university only just disposed of the original 104 carcasses (from May) in the first week of September, as the poison injected into the bodies would be harmful for other creatures that could consume the remnants, and officials were unsure of the best method for clearance. The carcasses were taken to the Capital Regional District Landfill, where a deep hole was dug and the bodies were covered under a few feet of debris." 

September 14, 2010 In the past two weeks, UVic has captured and transferred 237 rabbits to representatives from permit-holding sanctuaries, three locally and one in Texas. A fourth sanctuary is planned for Whiskey Creek, not far from the Coombs location. The roughly 70 Texas-bound rabbits have found temporary refuge at Rabbit Haven in Gig Harbour, WA. More are expected to join them before moving to their final destination, the Wild Rose Rescue Ranch, at month’s end.

September 24, 2010 As reported in today’s Vancouver Sun, the “great rabbit exodus is well underway.” As of Sunday, 347 rabbits had been trapped and relocated to safe havens, 270 of them locally.  UVic’s Tom Smith is expecting another 70 to be caught this weekend, followed by a two-week break.  

In Best Friends Animal Sanctuary news, ‘Hooray for Rabbits’ we’re told that staff and volunteers at Wild Rose have been scrambling round the clock to get ready for the new long-term residents, expected in early October. The Ranch’s primary focus is to provide the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured, orphaned or lost wildlife. Some time ago they were working with a litter of orphaned rabbit babies who weren’t doing well. At the same time, they had an injured dove named Noah who took the babies under his wing – literally - and helped keep them warm and safe. The story of Noah and the bunnies made news all over the world.

Read more on the UVic rabbits on our Pet Shops/Rabbits/Legislation page