Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Non-Lethal Population Control Program for UVic Rabbits Only Requires University's Approval 

April 16, 2010 Nick Shaw DVM, Shaw Pet and Equine Hospitals recent letter to UVic officials 

In view of the current situation regarding the rabbits on the campus of the University of Victoria , I am prepared to make a formal proposal for control of their population growth.  

The rabbits previously captured and returned were sterilized by being neutered or spayed. 

 A less invasive and more efficient means of control could involve, instead, vasectomising the males. We hypothesize that vasectomy may be a more efficient means of birth control. In point form the explanation is as follows. 

1) It involves only the male rabbits, eliminating at least 50% (It would be expected that males comprise something less than half the population) of the population from the surgical pool. 

2) Vasectomised male rabbits will retain their territorial nature, keeping other males out of their immediate territory. 

3) Female rabbits are induced to ovulate by the act of coitus and once they ovulate they will enter a pseudo pregnancy which will preclude another estrus period for a few weeks. 

My proposal would involve two stages. The first stage would be to undertake an initial feasibility study involving the capture, vasectomising, and re-release of 12 male rabbits. Provided that my veterinarians and I can learn to streamline this technique, using the latest technological methods, then we could move on to the second stage to capture, vasectomise, and re-release 60-70% of the male rabbits back on campus in the areas from which they were captured. 

I am prepared to undertake, at no charge to the university, first the feasibility study and then, if that proves satisfactory to me, the second stage of my proposal. I would train volunteers to capture the rabbits and release them. To cover surgery costs, I would rely on donations raised by volunteers on campus and on donors. 

This offer is contingent on the university allowing the vasectomised rabbits to be re-released on campus in the areas from which they were captured and on assurances from the university that no cull will occur. 

UVic rabbits the focus of fierce debate as their numbers hop to new heights 

April 26, 2010 Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist

There’s bad blood on the bunny front at the University of Victoria.

As the university struggles with the fraught question of what to do with between 1,500 and 2,000 feral rabbits, which are chewing and digging their way through the formerly-verdant grounds, emotions are running high, fuelled by accusations of misinformation from both sides.

Leaders of the protect-the-bunnies movement claim the university is secretly killing rabbits at night, that there are “poison boxes” on the grounds and that UVic has paid only lip service to trap/sterilize programs as it has always regarded a massive slaughter as the final solution.

“There has been another instance of little, white, baby bunnies outside Emily Carr [residence building], dead. Looks like they got into the poison box,” said a note sent Friday to the media from Carmina Gooch of the Rabbit Advocacy Group of B.C.

Roslyn Cassells, an animal rights activist who served one term as a Green party representative on Vancouver’s Park Board, has led much of protest.

“The University of Victoria has been for years conducting a misinformation campaign in order to justify their killing of abandoned domestic rabbits on campus,” she said, accusing university staff of sabotaging rabbit-friendly initiatives. “Betrayal is the order of the day at the University of Victoria, where a large-scale night-time shooting of over 1,000 abandoned pet rabbits is imminent,” Cassells said in a recent e-mail to the media.

Another group, Save the UVic Bunnies, has a petition and is running a blog demanding that only non-lethal methods be used to control the rabbit population. “The bunnies are an integral part of the university and must be respected,” says the blog, adding there is a report that culling has already started.

All the charges are categorically denied by Tom Smith, UVic’s facilities management director, who says he is baffled by misinformation put out by activists who appear determined to whip public emotion into a frenzy. “I think it’s an effort to draw attention to it through sensationalism,” he said. There is also the cute fuzzy factor, Smith said. “I don’t think this would be happening if it was snakes,” he added.

There is no secret cull, no poison boxes, no night-time sharpshooters and no plan for a mass extermination, Smith said. And there will always be a place for rabbits on campus, he added.

However, the university does want to have rabbit-free zones in areas such as the playing fields, where students have tripped in rabbit holes, and the grass outside residences, which is now black with rabbit droppings. “It’s where students used to lie and study outside. They can’t do that anymore because of the feces,” Smith said.

The university’s rabbit population has been a bone of contention for more than two decades. Most of them are offspring from pets abandoned on the grounds in the 1980s and 1990s — their stripes, spots and unusual colourings are easy proof they aren’t indigenous — and they have flourished while munching on the university’s lush grounds and handouts from friendly people on campus.

Over the years, the university has taken a defensive approach, putting up fences to protect plants and trying to move the bunnies away from buildings. But the university is reaching the end of its rope.

“We just can’t keep up with them and they all have this impulse to dig,” Bentley Sly, University of Victoria grounds manager, said as he looked gloomily at an area outside the library where all vegetation has been eaten down to the roots and the soil is covered in droppings and honeycombed with holes and scrapings.

On the other side of the library, the signature tulip trees have only about another year to live after rabbits chewed neat rings around the bark of the 35- to-40-year-old trees. “These trees have a commercial value of several thousand dollars. They used to have juniper around them and the rabbits built warrens in it,” Sly said. “It’s disheartening.”

Around new plantings, such as beside the First Peoples House, a low, black wire fence is supposed to keep the bunnies at bay and new plants are supposedly unpalatable to rabbits, but it makes no difference, Sly said.

The issues go beyond vegetation. Walking over the lawn, you run the risk of stepping on bunny droppings, tripping over a baby bunny, or falling into a hole. The rabbits have also undermined sidewalks in some areas. And the grounds staff also have to clean up the rabbit carnage. “There have been 75 killed on the road in the last three months. It’s the only real population control we have,” Sly said.

The university hasn’t tabulated the cost of the damage, mainly because it is difficult to separate out staff costs. However, it’s believed it could be about $100,000 over the last three years.

Earlier this year, the university tried a pilot program to trap, sterilize and release 150 rabbits, but it ran into logistical problems with the provincial government.

The province regards feral rabbits as wildlife, which means they cannot be moved more than one kilometre and cannot be adopted out to private homes. They can be moved to animal sanctuaries, but that requires a ministry inspection and permitting process — something sanctuaries were not prepared to go through during the pilot project.

Interestingly, the university would need no permission from the province to kill the bunnies; under provincial rules, people can hunt rabbits for the “protection of their property.” “We have to get permits to move them one kilometre, but we don’t need a permit to kill them,” Smith said.

So now, the university is working on a long-term management plan for the bunnies, which it hopes will be released in June. That plan will include plans for a cull in certain zones the university wants to declare rabbit free. “We don’t think the reduction can ignore some sort of cull,” Smith said.

The huge number of rabbits means it would not be practical to catch and sterilize animals from one area and then relocate them to another already overcrowded area, he said. It is likely the cull would mean trapping and lethal injection, the method approved by the B.C. SPCA. “At least the university has attempted the non-lethal methods. Other groups have just gone out and shot them,” said Sara Dubois, manager of wildlife services at the SPCA. “The reality is that with 1,500 to 2,000 rabbits on campus, the numbers have to be reduced.”

And the new UVic plan will include provisions for sterilization or vasectomy programs, and for rabbit rescue groups to provide approved sanctuaries.

Environment Minister Barry Penner was not available to comment on whether there might be help available for the university in terms of making it easier to adopt out the bunnies, or considering a provincewide ban on selling unsterilized rabbits.

The latter is something the university and the SPCA would like to see, as UVic staff say pet rabbits continue to be abandoned on campus. If the supply is not plugged at source, whatever solution UVic finds will be short-lived, Dubois notes. “They would just be back in five years,” she said.


April 27, 2010 Carmina Gooch, RAG BC continues to send info on the Uvic rabbit situation to media, and has been contacted by reporters and others in the industry. For instance, CTV Canada AM is planning on contacting a representative of UVic, and has requested some information on the matter.   

UVic’s campus is comprised of 162.7 ha (402 acres).  Open spaces – natural areas, planted areas and lawns – comprise 116.6 ha (288 acres), or 71% of the land base.  Unfortunately, not only are the rabbits’ lives threatened by the administration, the considerable building and paving of late, has replaced the greenery and habitat that UVic’s website calls “the perfect place to live and learn.”   

The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality." Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher 

Don’t turn a blind eye; speak out!

No thanks, UVic bunnies won't be on soup kitchen menus 

 April 28, 2010  Times Colonist

The University of Victoria is teeming with rabbits and babies can be seen all over the campus, in their dens, in plants beds and wherever else they can go to find food

No, thank you. Local soup kitchens and shelters do not want contributions of UVic bunnies.

As debate heats up on the Times Colonist website over reducing the burgeoning rabbit population at the University of Victoria, suggestions that rabbit meat should be used to feed the city's homeless population are gaining steam.

But food-safety rules would preclude groups from accepting rabbits, said Kathy Stinson, Cool Aid executive director. "It's not as simple as going and bagging some bunnies and putting them in the stew pot," she said. "They would have to be properly butchered and you would have to have someone qualified to skin them."

Provincial food-safety guidelines for soup kitchens specify that the origin and preparation of the food must be known and that it has to be properly packaged and labelled.

Kitchens in shelters are regulated by Vancouver Island Health Authority and spokeswoman Shannon Marshall said animals have to be slaughtered and processed in a licensed abattoir. "And why would you feed the homeless something you wouldn't eat yourself?" she asked.

Comment: Other than a couple of remarks regarding the eating of human flesh, most comments were the usual dim-witted ones about delicious rabbit stew.  It's a sad reflection of society that the mindset of most people is one of inhumanity and intolerance of other species right to enjoyment of life.  Animals are not resources or property with whom we can do what we please!  One would think that in today's age this value would be firmly entrenched in our moral community.

How about it, UVic? Recent allegations that campus rabbits are being poisoned have been categorically denied by Tom Smith, facilities management director.  He has gone on record to say that there are "no poison boxes" on campus.  He says accusations of secret culls or poison boxes are simply untrue.  Come on, these bait boxes are very visible, and have been there for years to target the rat population.  The boxes are labelled "Victoria Pest Control" and contain an extremely toxic poison called Bromadiolone.  A single dose can cause immense suffering before death provides relief or its effects can be immediate.  Other species feeding off dead or dying carcasses also become poisoned.  

Excerpt from HealthLink BC:   

It is not a good idea to use poison or baits to control rodents...Poisoned animals crawl away to die; their decomposing bodies not only smell bad, but are often hard to retrieve and can be breeding grounds for disease. Poisons can also accidentally harm pets, wild animals, or even children. 

Please write to the Ministry of Environment, the BC SPCA, UVic officials, and the media to voice your outrage.  These inhumane boxes must be removed immediately.  In fact, they should be made illegal. 

Mr. Smith, in speaking for the University, has previously stated that "it is likely the cull (read slaughter) would mean trapping and lethal injection."  However, in a CTV Canada AM report April 29, he says that methods like shooting, trapping, or otherwise killing the rabbits in order to reduce the population will be employed.  It won't be by "a little bit" either, if the administration has its way.  Besides, other rabbits will move into the areas vacated by those that are killed.

Lethal control is archaic and ineffective!  Because of human apathy, negligence, and inaction, the innocent victims are targeted to pay the ultimate price.  This is morally reprehensible – unite in the fight against a mass extermination of life.   

If you want to join the opposition in a day of action, a demonstration is planned for May 1, 2-4 at the fountain at the McPherson Library at UVic. (close to the bus loop) Individual action is always appreciated – international media attention is mounting.  

There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is. Isaac Bashevis Singer

CTV Canada AM broadcast