Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Rabbits and Petcetera

BC SPCA/Petcetera - selling rabbits together


  Petcetera: assorted young rabbits 5-10 weeks,  $29.96. Not sterilized.  Older rabbits sometimes on sale for less.  



His name is George

Posted By: Carmina Gooch, Vancouver Rabbit Rescue and Advocacy
Date: Thursday, 28 April 2005, at 7:57 p.m.


Dan Urbani
President, Petcetera

Dear Sir,

I would like you to take a look at the attached pictures.

His name is George and this picture was taken after the Vancouver Rabbit Rescue & Advocacy had to remove him from a home due to severe neglect. This rabbit was purchased last year from your store in Richmond, BC. As you can well see he did nothing but suffer. When I took him he had lost almost all his hair, was so thin and weak he could barely move. He had been living in horrible conditions (a small cat carrier). This carrier had approx. two inches of waste in it and his legs were severely burned from sitting in his own urine. There he spent his whole day, alone, with no food or water. He was never let out and would most likely have died very soon if he had not been rescued. He was sold to a young woman who was unaware of his needs and quickly became bored with him when he was no longer small and cute. A rabbit as a pet is something that requires much thought, is a huge commitment and should never be decided on a whim. George was a whim which almost ended in fatal results. His and so many others suffering could have been prevented. I am asking you to eliminate the sale of rabbits in your chain of stores. There are so many animals in shelters waiting for loving homes that the purchase of pets is unnecessary and is only done for profit. It puts too many animals into unsuitable homes, condemned to a life of misery through no fault of their own.


Dawne Gleadhill
Advocacy Committee
Vancouver Rabbit Rescue & Advocacy


Beginning in February 2005, the SPCA put four surrendered rabbits into the Grandview/Rupert Petcetera.  Two are unsold.  They cost $59.95 and have been sterilized. They are fully grown, not appealing babies and are twice the price of the Petcetera product. Petcetera staff seem untrained in, or ignorant of, a rabbit's needs or how to select the best home for a rabbit.  Numerous concerns have been raised to both Petcetera and the BC SPCA regarding this arrangement. 


Letter to Dan Urbani, President, Petcetera

Posted By: Sue Collard, President, Vancouver Rabbit Rescue and Advocacy
Date: Saturday, 30 April 2005, at 7:57 a.m.


Dear Dan Urbani:

Every month VRRA handles a large number of calls and e-mails regarding rabbits people no longer want, rabbits people have no idea how to care for, stray rabbits, and dumped rabbits. Therefore, it was with mixed feelings we heard of the negotiations between Petcetera and the BC SPCA around a trial satellite adoption program for rabbits at Petcetera’s Grandview & Rupert location.

At this time we forwarded a brief proposal to you for your consideration that included a number of concerns that were based on specific observations by our members at several Petcetera locations. We also indicated these concerns would need to be addressed in any satellite adoption program that took into account animal welfare standards that were on a par with those at the location the adoptables would come from, which at the time was the Vancouver SPCA..

As we received no response from Petcetera outside of one call from your Livestock Manager, we continued to raise issues with the BC SPCA, including some over the pilot adoption program. The BC SPCA has indicated that as it has “no control” over your retail policies we should address our concerns to you as the CEO of Petcetera. Accordingly, we would appreciate your response to the following:

1. Petcetera has allowed rabbits for adoption in a number of locations since the late 1990s, usually one or two at a time at any one location. Despite an ongoing relationship with several groups of more than 7 years duration, rabbits in satellite adoption programs do not form part of Petcetera’s P.A.W.S adoption programs, not are they mentioned anywhere on your website. Can you explain why Petcetera has chosen not to publicly acknowledge the presence of adoptable rabbits in its stores?

2. VRRA is currently handling a number of former Petcetera rabbits and based on our experience we believe that many more continue to be recycled through shelters and rescues. Can you explain how you believe the continuing sale of rabbits from Petcetera locations contributes to “reducing pet overpopulation issues”? Why has Petcetera chosen not to sell cats/dogs/kittens/puppies and why does it continue to sell rabbits, as well as other animals?

3. We are given to understand that a common response to this question is that of “consumer demand.” We will state categorically that such arguments are specious. There are over 200 rabbits listed in Lower Mainland shelters and rescue groups, local shelters are full to capacity, there are more rabbits waiting for space, and a large number are abandoned, as any visit to Jericho Beach, or other of the well known Lower Mainland dumping sites will indicate. Given this, surely the presence of adoptable spayed and neutered rabbits rather than sale priced baby bunnies would make much more of a contribution to reducing pet overpopulation. It would certainly help reduce euthanasia rates

4. You will be pleased to know that one of the former Petcetera rabbits VRRA has dealt with was a young rabbit sale priced due to a medical condition that will require ongoing treatment. Could Petcetera indicate just how much “consumer demand” there is for baby rabbits with ongoing medical needs? What would have happened to this baby had someone not bought it? Would it have been returned to the breeder? And would the breeder simply have culled this unwanted return? What is Petcetera’s policy around unsold “livestock”, and what information do you have on the fate of animals returned to breeders?

5. Leaving aside the topic of supply, demand, and the deliberate use of live animals as a sales hook, when will Petcetera address any of the issues we have raised in prior and ongoing corresondence, given the SPCA has indicated it is unable to address these issues and therefore, by implication, that change will have to be initiated by Petcetera? You will note that many of them are identical to the concerns we brought to your attention nearly 6 months ago, something that causes us significant worry. Specifically,

a. Fish tank housing for rabbits for sale is inadequate and the supposed relatively short duration of the stay of rabbits in the fish tanks is insufficient justification for their continued use. Could Petcetera please provide any empirical evidence that would justify the use of this style of housing?
b. Adoptable rabbits were initially placed in undersized rabbit cages on a counter in an unsupervised location, and remained in this location for several days. Could Petcetera please explain why this occurred and what steps it has taken to remedy this situation?
c. There are few or no enrichment items provided to rabbits for sale, and none provided to adoptable SPCA rabbits outside of those brought by VRRA.
d. We have seen little evidence that sufficient hay is provided on a systematic basis to either rabbits for sale or rabbits for adoption, outside of that VRRA has provided for adoptable rabbits. Hay is central to a rabbit’s diet and to the efficient functioning of its gut and any sudden reduction of hay or changes in diet could trigger ill-health in adoptable rabbits.
e. We have seen little evidence that rabbits for adoption are provided with an adequate supply of fresh leafy greens, outside of those VRRA itself has provided. In the absence of VRRA’s efforts we would suggest that the diet provided for adoptable rabbits is therefore of a lesser standard than the diet they received at the Vancouver SPCA (where it is again provided primarily by VRRA and SPCA volunteers). What will Petcetera be doing to ensure the well-being of SPCA adoptable rabbits in its care and will it be adopting animal care standards on a par with those provided by the many volunteers who tend to rabbits in a number of SPCA shelter locations?
f. The majority of staff seem woefully ill-informed of rabbit care, behaviour and needs, VRRA members were informed that staff did not understand why adoptable rabbits were being placed in Petcetera, and staff showed remarkably little interest in the adoptables. Has Petcetera initiated any form of staff training around rabbit care and behaviour, does it have any form of training specifically for adoptables, and if so what does this training consist of? If it has not yet initiated staff training when will it do so?
g. Little or no appropriate information is provided around rabbit care, what information VRRA provided either went missing, was removed, or was placed somewhere not readily accessible to staff or customers. Former owners of Petcetera rabbits have indicated they were provided with no care information at all. A VRRA member had to specifically request information on at least 3 separate occasions before any was provided. However, Petcetera’s rabbit information flyer turned out to be nothing more than a shopping list What will Petcetera be doing to ensure that current and up to date rabbit care and behaviour information is being provided with either each and every rabbit for sale or SPCA adoptable rabbits, including the necessity for spay and neuter – surely something that would help reduce overpopulation?

As it currently stands, I can see how the current satellite adoption arrangement benefits the BC SPCA, by reducing the numbers of rabbits physically present in its shelters. I can see how the current satellite adoption program benefits Petcetera, as people need to buy for their rabbits whether adopted or not. I cannot see, given the above, how it benefits the rabbits.

The SPCA has indicated that the satellite adoption program will allow people to adopt who might not otherwise come to shelters. This may well be true, but perhaps it would better serve the SPCA’s needs to get rabbits adopted if their current agreement with you had somewhere included the fact that people would need to know that an adoption program was in place.

I fail to see how Petcetera can claim that it is committed to reducing pet overpopulation given it contributes to the cycle of abuse , abandonment, and surrender through first selling rabbits, second in providing grossly inadequate or no information including a complete lack of information on spay/neuter, third in remaining quiet about adoption programs that have existed for 7 years in some parts of the country. Is it the irony of both selling and adopting from the same site that keeps you quiet and leads the SPCA to suggest we approach you for an answer to our concerns? Is Petcetera concerned it might lose sales to adoptions were it to fully endorse an adoption program that was on a par with those for cats and dogs and that included removing live rabbits for sale from its locations?
VRRA looks forward to your response on these issues. Feel free to contact me at any time.

Sue Collard,
President, VRRA

Pleas for help to Vancouver Rabbit Rescue

Posted By: Carmina Gooch, VRRA
Friday, 29 April 2005, at 10:01 a.m.

To: rescue@vrra.org
Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2005 10:39 PM
Subject: rabbits in the park

Hi. I live in Richmond and noticed two obviously domestic bunnies at the Minoru duck pond behind Richmond Hospital. One was a lop eared bunny and the other was white and black spotted. The was also a larger all brown bunny there. What can I do to help these bunnies other than bringing them food? The SPCA simply said that there are lots of bunnies in Richmond and there is nothing that they will do. Not good enough. Please help.

March 15, 2005


To: Mr. Dan Urbani


Subject: Removal of Rabbits from Petcetera Stores


I am certain that you are cognizant of the fact that the entire animal welfare profile has been significantly raised over the last few years and the public is increasingly more knowledgeable and concerned with the treatment of companion animals. The brutality and suffering associated with the pet business is horrific.


Ideally, I would like Petcetera to remove all live animals for sale but as a step towards achieving this goal a beginning could be with the rabbits. Displayed in inappropriate aquarium-type accommodations, devoid of toys, deprived of hay which is critical to their diet, and unable to move freely about sends a wrong message to the public.  The fact that most rabbits are bred in undesirable conditions and are weaned at the too young age of four weeks, could be problematic healthwise and also creates the impression that rabbits are cute, "cuddly" creatures suitable for young children, which is untrue. The shelf life of a rabbit is short so to exploit them in this manner in order to create impulse buying, has negative connotations and far-reaching consequences. Novelty breeds, such as the lionhead, are routinely introduced and marketed as well, more victims for the industry.  The sad truth is that most will end up neglected, mistreated, unwanted, and abandoned, either intentionally or otherwise, including those bought as Easter gifts.


An expanding group of consumers are choosing not to buy into the cruelty associated with the pet industry by boycotting those stores that continue to mass-market and exploit lives for profit.


In conclusion, I believe it would be advantageous, both as an astute business move, and as one that demonstrates a sincere commitment to reducing euthanasia rates and homelessness, as well as improving the lives of rabbits and all animals that you give serious thought to the phasing out and selling of live creatures.     




Carmina Gooch

North Vancouver


March 14, 2005


To: Vancouver Humane Society


Subject:  Rabbits, BC SPCA & Petcetera


What is the BC SPCA doing to address the plight of rabbits in general, and specifically, those bought as Easter pets?  Again this year a predictable ho-hum public service announcement is released "urging the public to refrain from buying rabbits..." but after all this time shouldn't there be more in the way of proactive initiatives?  There are increasing colonies of domesticated rabbits discarded to the outdoors and the lucrative pet peddling business is thriving.


As the BCSPCA and Petcetera have a continuing relationship/business partnership there would be considerable gains, both in terms of public image, and animal welfare, if the sale of rabbits as well as the other array of live caged animals (prisoners) exploited for profit were terminated.


If this is not immediately achievable Petcetera has its own adoption centre called Petcetera Animal Welfare Society that operates in partnership with the BC SPCA. Founder and President Mr. Dan Urbani has stated that as a "responsible pet retailer Petcetera is committed to helping reduce pet population" and that it also "works to reduce euthanasia rates by providing adoption for homeless animals."  BC SPCA cats and dogs are rehomed through the program, so it is conceivable that if the BC SPCA actively pursues a leadership role in such areas as advocacy and reform, the creation and availability of educational and public awareness programs, the enhancement of humane care standards, and other such initiatives, that rabbits can be included as well. 


What is questionable is the implementation of the recent pilot project at the Grandview & Rupert store wherein there is the choice between the "adoption" of BC SPCA spayed/neutered adult rescue rabbits for $59.95 each in one corner of the store and the promotion and routine $19.99 “sale” of Petcetera baby and juvenile bunnies in the other large and prominent well-lighted "livestock section"   




Carmina Gooch

Rabbit Rescuer and Advocate


cc: Barbara Yaffe  


March 15, 2005
To: Mr. Urbani
Re: Rabbits and Petcetera
My purpose in writing is to ask you to consider the temporary removal of rabbits from your stores for the Easter period, and to work towards achieving the goal of the permanent elimination of sales of all live animals, beginning with the rabbits.
The entire pet industry is inherent with suffering and misery in all forms, breeders who care nothing about the welfare or genetic control of the breed, horrendous animal mills, the transportation, wholesaling, warehousing, the merchandizing and mass-marketing of animals as product, store conditions, unknowledgeable staff, the casual consumer, overpopulation, and the mistreatment, abandonment or disposal of cast-off companion animals.
With the increasing animal welfare movement and public awareness as to animals as sentient beings, deserving of an equal place in society, it would not only be the right thing thing to do, but a prudent business manoeuver as well, and also make for great community and public relations.  Numerous unwanted pet rabbits are "dumped" outdoors or relinquished to the pound and to other rescue groups on a daily basis.  Colonies are becoming more widespread throughout the lower mainland and elsewhere. 
I urge you, for the sake of the rabbits, to be proactive and demonstrate your commitment to reducing overpopulation and euthanasia rates. 
Terry Roberge
North Vancouver 
From: Carmina
To: Bob Busch
Cc: Craig Daniell ; Mary Lou Trouman
Sent: Monday, April 04, 2005 11:05 PM
Subject: Re: rabbit welfare
April 4, 2005
Dear Bob:
Thanks for your prompt reply.
It is not only true that the SPCA is receiving increasing numbers of rabbits but that (1) other Lower Mainland rescue groups have formed over the past 2-3 years specifically to deal with rabbits; (2) these groups are also taking in growing numbers of rabbits, including some turned away from SPCA shelters, and others that have been threatened with euthanasia at lower mainland SPCA facilities.       
Therefore it would seem as though the demand on the rabbit welfare community at large has increased to a greater extent than your comments would suggest, and the addition of "display space" at two shelters will at best be a stopgap measure. The volume of rabbits discarded to the outdoors has fast become an issue of concern in a number of municipalities so I would deem it important that strategies for remedying the feral populations be addressed rather quickly.  The BC SPCA is in a position to help bring forth municipal and provincial legislation and to demonstrate to the public that it is providing a leadership role in bringing the animal welfare movement forward.      
With respect to your rabbits for adoption at the Grandview Petcetera, it is by now relatively well known within the animal welfare community that the SPCA is allowing or is being forced to allow, by an inadequate contract, the presence of both adoptable SPCA rabbits and Petcetera live rabbits for sale. This action makes no sense at all.  It has been my understanding that there has been some negotiation with Mr. Urbani, President of Petcetera, with whom you have partnered since 1997, regarding the removal of rabbits bred specifically as "product" and for profit. I am aware, as well, that your society has received considerable correspondence asking that the sale of all live animals be eliminated from pet shops.  This is an industry rife with tremendous misery and suffering affecting multitudes of lives. To phase out such sales would help greatly in reducing overpopulation, homelessness, and the unnecessary killing of healthy rabbits.  It would be prudent, both as a business move, and one that demonstrates a proactive stance, if this company were to focus on an enhanced range of quality supplies rather than "livestock."  More and more consumers are choosing to boycott these stores and take their business elsewhere.       
I have attempted on several occasions to obtain what Petcetera states is rabbit care information. What I received after numerous endeavors was a Petcetera shopping list. You should be apprised of the fact that no adequate information on the behaviors or care of rabbits was made available to me by Petcetera personnel.  The casual consumer and first time buyer is by no means informed as to the benefits of spay or neuter or responsibilities involved in a ten (or more) year commitment.  I watched as the sale of two baby rabbits was transacted on Good Friday at the Grandview outlet, and in both instances, the animal was handed over with the imparting of a couple of general remarks.       
If any of the local rabbit groups or the SPCA have provided rabbit care information it was either gone or curiously missing, nor did the staff I speak with know anything about it.  This is significant as it will surely affect the future welfare of SPCA rabbits temporarily housed at a Petcetera location. Or does the SPCA now believe that a shopping list constitutes acceptable public education for people interested in adopting SPCA rabbits?
With respect to the Rabbit Festival, I was more than willing to act as a consultant to Vancouver Rabbit Rescue & Advocacy (VRRA) for this event and to assist with the preparation and hard work that went in to its successful execution.  To correct your information, the Rabbit Festival was held at the end of August 2004. The SPCA cooperated in a joint effort to the extent of allowing space to be used, posting a notice in its events, and sending out information to the media. The Vancouver Branch Manager was present but conspicuously absent was any SPCA personnel to act as representatives to this event.  I did not notice any follow up in subsequent SPCA literature or postings and one of the articles in "Animal Sense" was written by the woman who runs Small Animal Rescue Society.
In conclusion, despite "resource limitations" I feel a lot more can be done by the BC SPCA to improve the lives of rabbits.
Best regards,
Carmina Gooch

Note: I have sent numerous letters regarding rabbit welfare concerns to the BC SPCA, Petcetera, the media, local government, and other officials all in an effort to galvanize anybody into action.  The small volunteer groups are doing their best, but it's an uphill battle, at best. (letters may have been copied to other recipients other than those that appear here)    


Comment: VRRA was incorporated as a Non-Profit Society in June, 2003, and is the Vancouver chapter of the House Rabbit Society.  Carmina Gooch, long-time animal activist and rabbit rescuer/advocate was a co-founder as was Sue Collard, who became VRRA's first president.  Rabbits have never received the same attention as dogs or cats, and as committed activists in the animal rights movement, Carmina and Sue formed the Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC in 2005.  While individual action and a changing mindset are critical components of societal change, group efforts and coalitions of like-minded people help push the momentum forward, bringing about the desired change.  We're in this for the rabbits, and for all our animal friends.  Join us in our activities, and if you have any inquiries or comments please contact rabbitadbc@shaw.ca  or info@rabbitadvocacy.com Carmina Gooch


Read more: 2007 Petition & Letter to Petcetera, campaign makes Best Friends


Petcetera's blatant promotion of cute little Easter bunnies


Bunny Debate, letters to media & councils


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