Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
Pet Habitat, District of North Vancouver
Website information about Pet Habitat says the first store opened in 1978. As more stores opened and as the animal rights movement came into being, numerous complaints and concerns were raised about the exploitation of 'pets' for profit. We've all heard of animal mills, backyard breeders, and the tremendous suffering, inbreeding, and deaths associated with the industry. Birds, reptiles, fish, puppies, rabbits, rodents, kittens, and the assorted exotics, all bred to support the vile industry. Profit is the bottom line. I, along with many animal advocacy and welfare groups, as well as the general public, have written to government, the SPCA, the media, anybody, in the hopes of bringing about much-needed reforms to the industry. It is vital that we speak out, and through our actions, bring about political and legal change. In recent years, the number of concerns regarding sick or dead 'stock,' inhumane and unsanitary conditions, poor care, and staff who knew nothing about the live 'product,' they were selling, have substantially increased. This is good, but it's not enough. Animals are still considered property and most people feel entitled to "ownership."
In 2001, I wrote to the District of North Vancouver regarding Pet Habitat in Lynn Valley and among the responses received, I was told that "there will be a study and revision of the existing animal-related bylaws within the near future," but in 2009 I'm still asking that changes be made to the Pet Shop Regulation Bylaw 6966. One councillor felt that there were sufficient regulations in place in the District to protect animals and that it was a matter of staff checking up to enforce the rules, if need be. He did agree that "pet stores and the inevitability of incarceration of animals under cramped conditions that is part of it constitutes a form of cruelty to animals totally out of line in a civilized society." Why we are still selling animals in this manner in this day and age is beyond me. It's abominable that our self-righteous and arrogant attitudes of superiority have caused so much suffering and death to the millions of innocent creatures we choose to use to fulfill our own selfish desires.
A couple of recent letters follow. I have been in regular correspondence with our District Animal Welfare Shelter since it took over on January 1, 2002 after the SPCA lost its contract. Previously, I had been monitoring the rabbit situation with the SPCA, as well as adopting a number of them over the years. Along with other concerned animal advocates, I worked to have the District take over operations, pointing out numerous reasons why change was needed. The vote was 4-3 in favour. As to Pet Habitat, a new bylaw specific to rabbits is being drafted. I've been told that complaints about the store, most of which are in regard to the puppies, have been coming in on a regular basis since a new franchisee took over in May. There have always been complaints, no matter who was operating the franchise, and District Animal Welfare Officers, as well as the SPCA, have been paying visits to the shop, situated in the Lynn Valley Mall. Fines have been levied in the past for non-compliance of bylaws.
Date: February 24, 2009
Dear Mayor Walton and Council:
The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC is asking that you establish bylaws that would prohibit the sale and adoption of unsterilized rabbits.
I receive many calls from people who have bought baby bunnies on impulse from pet stores, only to decide several months later, that they don't want them. As you probably know, rescue groups and humane societies are always at over-capacity, and adult rabbits are difficult to find good homes for. There are rabbits at the District Animal Shelter who have been there for years and haven't been rehomed. I have a sanctuary of rabbits in my home, many of which have come from the shelter or from people that were referred to me from shelter staff. I have also been involved in capturing rabbits that were let loose in the Delbrook and Upper Lonsdale areas. Two of the rabbits were pregnant.
Many 'owners' make the decision to abandon their rabbits into the environment, and in recent years municipalities like Richmond and Kelowna have been faced with dealing with the consequences of rabbit colonies. Rabbits had multiplied into the thousands in a few short years, and with the gestation period being roughly 30 days, it's easy to see why.
Yet pet stores, like Pet Habitat in Lynn Valley Mall, continue to sell baby rabbits to a public uninformed about the needs, care and commitment in having a 'pet' rabbit. There's simply no need to sell these animals. Unwanted rabbits are available for adoption everywhere so why breed more to feed the pet industry? We all pay the consequences afterwards. This is an issue that requires the immediate attention of district staff.
While Petcetera is not selling unsterilized rabbits in Lower Mainland stores, there is nothing that would prevent Mr. Urbani, President and CEO from doing so. Just recently the City of Kelowna passed a bylaw that prohibits the sale or adoption of rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered, yet Petcetera was found in violation of the regulation.
Prior to PetSmart opening on Main Street in October, 2007 right near the animal shelter, District officials were unaware of the huge uproar in the United States when PetSmart announced plans to begin selling dwarf rabbits in its stores. Its previous policy was to partner exclusively with local rescue organizations. Due to momentous public opposition, the plan was short-lived.
PETCO, another large US chain, announced last year that beginning in 2009 it would be selling neutered rabbits only. http://www.rabbitadvocacy.com/petco_to_offer_neutered_rabbits.htm
Under section 8(3)(k) of the Community Charter, Council can prevent the sale of European (domestic) rabbits. Vernon is currently investigating the feasibility of bylaw that would ban the sale of unaltered rabbits, and Coldstream, which doesn't have any pet stores in its district, is also considering similar legislation and a fine to individuals caught abandoning rabbits into the community.
Proactive measures are far less costly than reactive ones, and killing surplus pets in today's society is not only inhumane, it's unacceptable. The irresponsible breeding and selling for profit must stop. Additionally, there needs to be more awareness of responsible pet guardianship.
Therefore, I respectfully ask that the District of North Vancouver demonstrate leadership by taking the progressive step of enacting new legislation in The Pet Shop Regulation Bylaw that would prohibit the sale or adoption of unsterilized rabbits.
I am willing to work with staff in addressing the welfare of rabbits and look forward to hearing from you.
May 25, 2009
Dear Mayor and Council:
After reading a number of postings on the Internet over the last few days regarding puppy mill puppies at Pet Habitat locations and in response to a couple of phone calls regarding rabbits at the Pet Habitat store in the Lynn Valley Mall, I went to investigate.
If I was taken aback on Friday's visit, nothing prepared me for what I saw today, May 25th. On Friday there was a cage with a spotted Rex just inside the store, and another smaller cage with three young adult rabbits. Today, there was another cage just outside the store with two tiny baby rabbits, and the Rex rabbit had a nest of newborns! I spoke with the young male franchisee who had recently taken over the store, and he said the two baby rabbits were six-weeks-old, but with my years of experience with rescue and advocacy, they looked to be no older than four weeks. He also had said the Rex was a "he" and four months old. He was reluctant to give me further information other than to say the rabbits were "friendly."
I am asking that the District get some much-needed new bylaws in place quickly that would see the sale of unsterilized rabbits stopped. With eight rabbits at the shelter, and many more in rescues, at SPCA's and humane societies, there is absolutely no need to encourage and reward this reckless breeding. It's just a matter of time before our community will have a colony of dumped pet rabbits. It's only because of quick past action that we haven't had a situation like that of Kelowna or Richmond, and other areas of BC. Pet Habitat has had a long history of complaints, and before this manager gets carried away by bringing in or breeding more rabbits, I strongly suggest such an enterprise be nipped in the bud.
In addition, there were no puppies in the store on Friday, and today there were two. A poster lists a number of puppy breeds that can be pre-ordered and on the Park Royal Pet Habitat's website it currently says that there are 20 puppies in stock and over 100 breeds available for pre-order. The previous operator of the Lynn Valley store told me that puppies were coming in from the US and on Friday a friend of mine was reluctantly told by the new proprietor that the dogs were indeed arriving from across the border, after initially being told they were from the Fraser Valley. A Craigslist posting says that 100% of Pet Habitat's puppies are brokered through the Hunte Corporation based in Missouri, a company well-known for multitudes of humane violations in the United States. Despite claims that they do no buy from puppy mills, a recent Marketplace presented a very different picture.
The bottom line is that the pet industry is a sordid one, with the sole intent of turning a profit, and whether it's puppies, kittens, rabbits, or any other poor creature, they deserve to be protected by legislation.
Please advise as to when new and revised pet shop bylaws can be expected, as I feel this is a matter that cannot be delayed any longer.
Note: Bylaws, such as the sourcing of animals, has been problematic in municipalities all over BC. Most buyers don't demand records and often store owners do not have them available, or if they do, the information is false. You can be almost 100% sure the animals came from a commercial mill or backyard breeder, then through a broker, and then to the pet store. "Reputable" breeders do not sell to pet stores, and in Canada there is no such thing as a registered breeder. If, for example, a puppy is registered with the CKC or the AKC, it is probably a purebred of registered parents, but since the clubs rely on breeder honesty, information isn't necessarily true. Papers do not guarantee health nor the quality of the breed. It is illegal to charge extra for papers, but some breeders and stores do.
The baby rabbits sold recently in Pet Habitat, Lynn Valley, were the offspring of the Rex mom being deliberately bred with her brother. In past years, this store and others, received baby rabbits from people whose rabbit had "accidentally" had a litter. Multiplex, on East Hastings, Vancouver, had their own breeding pair. 4-H members have also been known to supply to pet stores. Please report any concerns to your municipality, to the SPCA, and to us. Help be a voice for these innocent creatures!
July 27, 2009 Carmina Gooch, of the Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC, has e-mailed NVD Council and other appropriate departments again, regarding the need to implement new bylaws for pet shops.
Dear Mayor and Council,
In recent correspondence with the District regarding rabbit concerns, Pet Habitat, and amendments to existing bylaws that would ban the sale of unaltered rabbits in pet stores, I would like to know if we can look forward to new regulations in the near future. The City of Richmond is creating tighter restrictions on pet stores that would, in addition, to prohibiting the sale of unneutered rabbits, ban the sale of dogs in storefronts.
The origin of animals that arrive in pet shops is of great concern to the public, as it is almost guaranteed that they come from a mill or backyard breeder. Sometimes a store is approached by a local resident whose pet has "accidentally" had a litter, and in other instances, the store owner will respond to postings like those on Craigslist, in order to get a free animal. In the recent case of the Rex rabbit at Lynn Valley's Pet Habitat, it was purposely and recklessly bred so this business could profit off the back of an innocent creature. Somebody concerned that she would be used as a constant breeder ended up buying her, although she knew this would just make way for another cycle of rabbits to be bred. Also, at the same time, our District Animal Shelter had two Rex rabbits for adoption, which had been bought from a pet store and subsequently surrendered.
On this weekend's trip to Pet Habitat, there were two unsterilized lops in the same cage for sale, while an assortment of homeless rabbits are available for adoption at the shelter. There is simply no need for this endless rotating cycle. The great majority of animals from pet stores are bought on impulse, and abandoned in short order thereafter. Whether to a rescue, to the pound, a shelter, or dumped into the community, we all end up paying for that kitten, rabbit, or puppy in the window.
Animal welfare concerns us all, and some simple proactive measures like frequent inspections and updated legislation will benefit everyone. Once again I ask that this important issue be presented to Council as quickly as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
October 2009 We contacted the DNV once again, regarding Pet Habitat, Lynn Valley Mall, and the need for new bylaws regarding pet shops. A customer was assured she was buying two male rabbits, when in fact, she had been sold a male and female. No surprise--she woke up one morning to find the female had given birth to 6 kits. She was unprepared for this, and was moving overseas within the next week. Rescue groups and the District Animal Shelter were contacted. It was rabbit rescue that managed to find a foster home for the bunny family, and they will also be the ones incurring the expenses.
There are ongoing concerns that the store is still being supplied with puppies from US mills. Attempts by individuals to verify the source of the puppies, kittens, and rabbits, have been met with resistance and evasiveness by the franchisee and employees.
Contact the District of North Vancouver and Lynn Valley Mall with your concerns. A number of people have written or phoned, so please add your voice. Bosa Development Corporation owns and manages the mall. Animal welfare is an important issue, affecting all of society. A response from Sabrina Arruda, Shopping Centre Manager, November 3rd assured us that our e-mail would be forwarded to the landlord and to the head office of Pet Habitat.
Another writer said that "as a courtesy to Save-On, Zellers, Winners and Shoppers, that are in my opinion, quality operations, I have advised each that 7 years of shopping in their stores has today stopped. I maintain that as anchor tenants they have a responsibility to keep any operation that takes advantage of animals out of the mall. Each were receptive to my comments."
November 5: Part of Sabrina’s reply to another e-mail stated that District Animal Welfare officers have been by recently and also in the past, and have confirmed that animals are being kept in accordance with rules and regulations. She added that concerns with regard to where store animals are being purchased will be sent to Pet Habitat Head Office for their review.
February 4, 2010 Carmina Gooch, RAG BC contacted District officials again with the following correspondence:
In previous correspondence (Dec. 2009) regarding the banning of rabbit sales in pet stores I was informed that District Council is currently available to review the proposed changes to the Pet Shop Regulation Bylaw. What is the status today?
You probably know that on Monday, February 1, Richmond Council made its first move by unanimously voting to prohibit pet stores from selling rabbits. Coun. Johnston said that it is the first step toward a total ban on animal sales. The City of Langley is also looking to ban any future pet stores from opening and to regulate current pet stores. This was triggered by numerous complaints of sick puppies being sold at Doggie World.
Over the last several weeks, rescue/advocacy groups have been busier than usual with a number of requests to take in unwanted pet rabbits. The Surrey SPCA took in eight in two days earlier this week.
In speaking with an employee today at Pet Habitat, Lynn Valley Centre, I was told that a pregnant rabbit had been sold (this is the second one I've been made aware of in the last few months) and that while the purchaser is keeping the mom, the kits will be in the store in about three weeks. This is simply atrocious that this cycle continues. How much longer is it going to take before the District takes action and has new regulations in place?
Before Easter, maybe?
February 9, 2010 Please take the time to write! Legislation was drafted last year - time to move on it!
Partial reply from Kim Marosevich, Shelter Manager:
Our proposed bylaw amendments are with the District’s legal counsel being reviewed prior to being presented to Mayor and Council. As soon as we are sure our amendments are well structured we’ll be looking to take the amendments forward. I too hope this can happen prior to the Easter season when we traditionally see an upsurge in rabbit sales and the abandonment that follows.
March 23, 2010 Pet Habitat has changed hands again, but not before another pregnant rabbit was sold to a local resident. The mom had four kits, three of which the owner found homes for, while she and the unwanted youngster will most likely be surrendered to the District shelter.
April 29, 2010 The District of North Vancouver Pet Shop Regulation Bylaw is being considered for amendment to prevent the sale of intact rabbits from pet shops on Monday, May 3, 2010. Carmina Gooch, Rabbit Advocacy Group will be speaking in support of the initiative. All are welcome to attend.
May 3, 2010 The vote was unanimous in first and second reading to ban the sale of intact rabbits in pet stores. Third and final reading will take place at the next council meeting, and will take effect immediately.
December 31, 2010 It’s finally happened – Pet Habitat has closed its doors and is out of business in the District of North Vancouver.
December 2011 Pet Habitat, Brentwood Mall, is going out of business and closing its doors forever! This couldn’t happen soon enough; 03/30/12 is its last day.
April 11, 2012 Letter: Stopping the ready flow of companion animals
Let's ban bunny breeders
By Carmina Gooch, Burnaby Now July 25, 2013
Re: Animal advocates worried about pet sales, Burnaby NOW, July 19
The unregulated and unrestricted breeding and selling of intact rabbits in pet stores and other public venues has been a long-standing issue of concern to rabbit advocates.
Cute little baby bunnies are displayed in pet stores tempting the impulse buyer, usually a parent giving in to a child's plea.
Frequently, they are discarded shortly thereafter, often outdoors, where they survive long enough to reproduce and multiply in short order.
This comes at great cost to society, both financially and ethically. Businesses can demonstrate social responsibility and a commitment to animal welfare by simply not selling these little beings.
Last September, the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution to ban sales of unsterilized rabbits in pet stores throughout the province.
Let's hope Burnaby's revised animal control bylaw, expected to be completed this fall, will include the same.
Carmina Gooch, North Vancouver
August 9, 2013 Pet ban issue heating up for City of Burnaby
Carmina Gooch of the Rabbit Advocacy Group wrote to council, as well, questioning the delay on the animal control bylaw review.
"Baby rabbits are an impulse buy, commonly bought for young children, and time and time again (are) discarded very quickly, unsterilized, after the child becomes bored with the animal," Gooch stated in her letter. "Pet store associates usually know little or nothing about rabbits and do not inform potential buyers about the responsibilities, costs, and importance of spay and neuter."
The Rabbit Advocacy Group has written to council in the past, requesting the city to ban pet sales, including rabbits, from pet stores and other venues.
August 26, 2013 We have heard from a representative of the Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Management Branch of FLNRO regarding our recent correspondence which contained a number of requests with respect to dealing with abandoned rabbits. We were advised that “given the potential scope of municipal regulatory authority in this matter, the Provincial Government does not intend to pursue legislation to regulate the sale of unsterilized rabbits at this time.”
November 26, 2013 Puppies, kittens and rabbits stay on Burnaby shelves