Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Word that New Westminster was still using the gas chamber on some of its animals was brought to Council's attention last month and quickly acted upon.  It's been dismantled and from now on if an animal is too sick or severely injured it will be injected with euthanyl by a vet.  The City facility is in dire need of an overhaul and programs that will bring animal welfare, including that of rabbits, into the 21st Century. Animal advocates have long been lobbying for change and recently had their chance to speak to the issue.  

Animal Policy Proposals were on the agenda for New Westminster City Council, October 1, 2007.  The Notice of Motion was that staff investigate other jurisdictions in order to: 

  • Craft a spay and neuter bylaw for all dogs and cats in the City 

  • Formally adopt a no-kill policy unless the animal is terminally ill, deemed vicious by independent assessment or severely injured as determined by a veterinarian 

  • Require that all cats have identification tags or tattoos to facilitate the control of stray and feral cats; and 

  • Begin a volunteer program at the City Animal Shelter to help with such needs as walking dogs and the care of cats if this is deemed necessary by the City's animal control staff. 

The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC spoke to council on this matter and for general interest provided an information package full of material on rabbits.  We also offered to discuss and help develop new programs and initiatives that would benefit both rabbits and the municipality.  Council was very receptive to this and voted to include a section in their animal welfare policies relating to rabbits.  Of particular interest was the impulse buying of baby rabbits and the subsequent abandonment once they become unwanted.       

October 1, 2007

Subject: Animal Policy Proposals
Re: Rabbits

To: Mayor Wright and Council,

The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC is committed to raising public awareness regarding the plight of domestic rabbits in our society, with emphasis on those that serve as companion animals. With respect to having staff investigate other municipalities as to a spay and neuter bylaw for dogs and cats, I would also ask that rabbits be included as well. Rabbits are prolific breeders, with a gestation period of roughly 30 days. A number of communities have made news in recent years because of the number of abandoned pet rabbits multiplying and roaming about. They include Victoria, Vernon, Kelowna, Vancouver, Coquitlam, and Richmond. While the release of rabbits is prohibited under the GVRD, it's not enforced, and most people find it's the easiest method of disposing of their rabbit/s once they are no longer wanted. I get calls all the time from people wishing to surrender their rabbit or from other rescue groups who need help.

A proactive approach will save money and is far more effective than a reactive one. From your website under 'Animal Control' it states that "commitment to responsible pet and prevention of pet over population starts at adoption." That's why dogs and cats are micro-chipped and altered before going to new homes. Why not extend the same consideration to rabbits? Asking $5.00 as a minimum donation for an unsterilized rabbit guarantees that this rabbit will end up being dumped somewhere again, and gives the public the impression that there's no value to his or her life. Contrary to widespread belief, rabbits are not starter pets for children. They can live up to 10 years, have specialized needs and are by no means low maintenance.

The animal welfare organizations I'm involved with are all committed to working together to improve the welfare of the rabbits in the City of New Westminster, whether it be through education, providing better living quarters at the pound, or by giving financial assistance for a spay/neuter program. We've been doing this for the District of North Vancouver's Animal Welfare Shelter since 2002, when operations were taken over from the SPCA.

The changes have been remarkable. A foundation was set up for donations and planned giving, enabling the public to contribute toward projects and services directly benefiting the animals. Other groups, including Pacific Animal Foundation and the Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC financed new outdoor rabbit pens, T.L. Roberge Trucking Ltd. had their staff build an indoor play area, and volunteer programs, such as dog walking, cleaning cages, socialization of animals, foster homes, and transport of wildlife were put into place. The public responds by contributing in a variety of ways to ensure the continued success of its local shelter. There is ample educational material available, and staff is always helpful and responsive to any situation that may arise.

While this is an ever-evolving effort it demonstrates what can be done. The lives of rabbits are important and as such, we look forward to discussing and developing new programs or initiatives benefiting both rabbits and your municipality.


Carmina Gooch, Founder

Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC
North Vancouver


Vice President,
Pets In Need Society


Pacific Animal Foundation


City to consider new animal regulations 

Animal rights advocates want the City of New Westminster to extend a helping hand to all kinds of critters. 

By The Record (New Westminster) October 6, 2007 

Animal rights advocates want the City of New Westminster to extend a helping hand to all kinds of critters. 

On Oct. 1, city council considered Coun. Lorrie Williams' notice of motion about the city's animal policies.

The notice of motion asked staff to investigate other jurisdictions in order to: craft a spay and neuter bylaw for all dogs and cats in the city; adopt a 'no kill' policy unless an animal is terminally ill, deemed vicious by an independent assessment, or severely injured as determined by a veterinarian; require all cats to have identification tags, microchips or tattoos to facilitate the control of stray and feral cats; and begin a volunteer program at the city's animal shelter to help with such needs as walking dogs and the care of cats.

New Westminster resident Jaimie McEvoy suggested the city should consider forming an animal welfare committee that could include council members, veterinarians and animal advocates.

Stacy Ashton, vice-president of the Royal City Humane Society, said volunteers are an extremely cost-effective way of complementing services that are already in place. "How you can involve volunteers is only limited by your imagination," she said.

Roslyn Cassells asked council to consider a moratorium on killing animals until the city has examined a 'no kill' policy. "A 'no kill' policy is an excellent idea, however, it must be truly 'no kill,'" she said. Cassells expressed concern that council's motion recommended having an "independent" assessment on animals. "Independent assessment could be you or me saying, 'That's a mean dog, let's kill it,'" she said.

Council later amended the motion to state that a "professional" assessment be considered.

Cassells believes a spay and neuter bylaw is well-intentioned but is nearly impossible to enforce. She suggested the city should institute a public education campaign and fund spay and neuter services for those who request them. "Every dollar spent on spay and neuter services will result in a $7 reduction in the cost of animal control," she said.

Donna Liberson of the Animal Rights Coalition praised council for responding to the needs of animals and residents. "The Animal Rights Coalition has been tracking animal control statistics in the Lower Mainland for 10 years," she said. "New Westminster does not have a problem with pet overpopulation. It costs nothing to be a 'no kill' pound. But it does take will and leadership to happen." Liberson said the city may want to consider a storefront animal shelter, noting the Queensborough pound is hard to find.

Cheryl Rogers, a volunteer with the Royal City Humane Society, said the society has lobbied city hall for a spay and neuter bylaw in the past. "With our paws and claws crossed, we hope third time lucky," she said.

Carmina Gooch of the North Shore Rabbit Rescue (Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC) urged the city to include rabbits in a spay and neuter bylaw.

Judy Stone of the Animal Advocates Society asked council to consider the issue of "yard dogs" as part of any animal policies. The society has received reports of suffering dogs in the city through the years and passed along the information to animal control and the SPCA. "Nothing improved for the dogs," Stone said.

A woman who transports injured animals - including deer, raccoons, skunks and otters - asked council to include wildlife in the city's animal policy.

Council approved Williams' motion, which was later amended to include asking staff to investigate the formation of an animal advisory committee, the issues of yard dogs and domestic animals and wildlife, and to consult with the public.

Williams said the response to her notice of motion demonstrates that animal issues are very important. She believes the city could have the best animal bylaw in B.C. "I realize it is an emotional issue," she said. "It is asking staff to investigate. These things are not done yet."

The issue of animal rights came to the forefront when it was recently revealed that the city's animal shelter had a gas chamber, which had been used to euthanized cats in past years. The gas chamber has since been dismantled.

Coun. Calvin Donnelly said the animal control department does an excellent job with the resources it has. "I don't want anyone to think this is saying animal control isn't doing a good job," he said. "They are doing a good job."