Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Rabbit shootings trigger petition: 'They're exterminating wild animals'

June 12, 2014 B. Staggs for the Orange County Register

MISSION VIEJO – Mary Ellis doesn’t consider herself an activist. The 44-year-old marriage and family counselor from Irvine had never launched a petition, started a social media campaign or written to a politician.

In late May, a Facebook friend shared a link to an article about how two senior communities in Mission Viejo were dealing with rabbits that were eating their landscaping. Ellis said she became “outraged” as she read that the city gave Casta del Sol and Palmia permission to hire a pest management company to kill rabbits with air-powered pellet guns.

Within days, Ellis had created an account on ThePetitionSite.com and started a petition titled “Stop the City of Mission Viejo from Exterminating Wild Rabbits.” Thursday, her campaign hit its goal of 1,000 signatures, with people from Canada to Japan demanding that Mission Viejo halt the practice.

“There are far more humane ways of controlling these lovely creatures,” Robert Hopkins of the United Kingdom wrote as he added signature No. 794. Said Ellis: “The city of Mission Viejo is on the map all over the world, but for negative reasons. They’re exterminating wild animals.”

Rabbits have long been a nuisance in the gated 55-plus communities of Casta del Sol and Palmia, homeowners association officials say. After other alternatives to protect their landscaping failed, the homeowners associations went to the city and asked for a variance to Mission Viejo’s firearm ordinance so they could begin shooting the rabbits.

Agreements have been in place in Casta del Sol since 2005 and in Palmia since 2010, with both renewed for another two years during the May 19 City Council meeting.

There were 1,287 rabbits shot in Casta del Sol in 2013, according to a report provided by the city. In Palmia, a report to the city shows 158 rabbits were killed last year.

It’s not open season in the communities, with strict guidelines over how the rabbits are culled. The homeowners associations must hire experienced professionals who wear “distinctive clothing” and are chaperoned by a “spotter,” with shooting halted if any people are nearby. They are not allowed to shoot toward homes, other buildings or parking areas. And shooting is allowed only a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset.

At the May meeting, however, Palmia officials acknowledged that their exterminator – Animal Pest Management Services of Laguna Hills – had been shooting rabbits between midnight and 5 a.m. twice a month.

Assistant City Manager Keith Rattay said the city “made it very clear” when it reissued variances to both communities that they are to stick to the approved times. But if they don’t, he said that wouldn’t automatically trigger a revocation of the variance. “We would force them to come back to council and ask for the hours to change to what works for them,” Rattay said. “It doesn’t sound like an unreasonable request.”

Rattay added that city would be “more vigilant” in monitoring the process, with residents encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Department if shootings continue to take place in the middle of the night. When asked whether Palmia is now sticking to the approved times, Recreation Coordinator Kevin Osborn said the homeowners association had no comment on the issue.

Nearby Ladera Ranch also struggles with landscaping damage from wild rabbits. While it hasn’t eliminated the problem, Ken Gibson, executive director of the community’s homeowners association, said it has been able to reduce the animals through small changes, such as eliminating woody plants that give rabbits a spot to hide near turf.

“We also look to install plants that rabbits don’t like, such as society garlic, in areas that are highly populated by rabbits,” Gibson said. “This helps to keep them away.”

Armed with signatures from 1,000 supporters, Ellis on Thursday was drafting a letter to Mission Viejo Mayor Trish Kelley asking Mission Viejo to revoke its permission for the shootings.“It’s just a terrible thing to do just to shoot them,” she said. “I want to have our voices be heard.”

Comment: With so many non-lethal alternatives available, it’s appalling that in these times animals are being exterminated for trivial human nonsense such as eating plants. Show some compassion - leave them alone! Their lives matter.