Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


September 29, 2010 While UVic rabbits have been moving off campus to new quarters, all has not been easy. Besides the logistics, the time, and fundraising efforts, there were some recent disturbing Facebook postings by a couple of teenage males that have been reported to the Parksville RCMP. Additionally, some of the rabbits strayed from the Coombs facility due to inadequate fencing. They were callously and heartlessly shot by an exterminator hired by the neighbor. What a cruel society we live in - the human species cannot and will not survive. Rest in Peace, Rabbits.   

Former UVic rabbits escape Island refuge; shot by neighbour reads the headline of Parksville’s Oceanside Star.

Dozens of rabbits got out of the Coombs compound on Tuesday (28th) and went onto an adjacent property where horses are kept, said refuge owner Wendy Huntbatch.

“The woman phoned me and in a very sour manner said that the ‘pests’ had to be removed immediately” because the rabbits were eating the grass,” said Huntbatch. Huntbatch said she told the neighbour she would arrange for live-traps to be brought as soon as possible to take care of the escapees.

But later that day, volunteers at the refuge who feed the rabbits heard gunshots. “They ran to the fence where the sound came from and screamed at the people to stop,” she said. “They had killed about 20 of the bunnies at 4 p.m. They did not even wait for us to fix the problem.”

Note: Some of the rabbits have been sterilized, others are in post-op recovery and some are too young for surgery or still nursing. They had been separated, accordingly.

"To live without killing is a thought which could electrify the world, if men were only capable of staying awake long enough to let the idea soak in." Henry Miller, The Henry Miller Reader (1959) 

September 30, 2010 The rabbits didn’t even stand a chance. Hours after the complaint they had been slaughtered, with no criminal charges expected to be filed.  According to Cpl. Richard van de Pol of the Oceanside RCMP "Some of the rabbits did get out and neighbours hired someone to dispose of the rabbits.” "When a rabbit escapes and gets off the property, it's deemed to be a wild animal."

Environment Ministry spokesman David Currie said complaints were received from the neighbour Tuesday and a ministry biologist went to the sanctuary. "We are continuing to investigate this complaint to determine whether the [sanctuary] is meeting the conditions of the permit," to host the rabbits, he said.

"We can also confirm the neighbouring resident did contract a nuisance trapper to destroy the rabbits that were on her property, which is within the rights of the property owner as rabbits are Schedule C wildlife." Under that category, wildlife can be captured or killed, but the killing must be done humanely, Currie said.

A Channel News: watch-v=w9Dg7dfhZTA  Ironically, there's a "No Hunting" sign on the gate of Barbara Smith's property.

October 1, 2010 Rabbit Advocacy has written to the BC SPCA and the Ministry of Environment regarding concerns to this disturbing event. Schedule C animals under BC’s Wildlife Act are unprotected from people like Barbara Smith, owner of the property, who took it upon herself to take action against the rabbits. The BC SPCA’s position on feral and abandoned rabbits is that it has no legal authority to stop the killing of rabbits if the methods are deemed to be accepted practices for wildlife control.   

RCMP and ministry officials have been on site. But the officials say that as the feral rabbits are wildlife, they can be legally captured and killed, provided a firearm is not used in the vicinity of a home and animals are killed humanely.

Penny Stone, B.C. SPCA Victoria branch manager, said shooting rabbits is considered humane, but she is saddened the property owners did not give sufficient time for the rabbits to be recaptured.

Last night, Smith said she could see about two dozen rabbits in her field and another four dozen in a neighbouring field, but she has no intention of allowing Vickery on her property to catch them. "I will deal with the rabbits on my land in whatever way I have to," she said.  "I am a farmer and these things are inherently dangerous. They are akin to rats. They are not harmless creatures, they are an actionable nuisance."  (Source: Times Colonist 10 01 2010) Her words speak volumes.

From the Criminal Code of Canada 445. (1) Every one commits an offence who wilfully and without lawful excuse,

(a) kills, maims, wounds, poisons or injures dogs, birds or animals that are not cattle and are kept for a lawful purpose; or

(b) places poison in such a position that it may easily be consumed by dogs, birds or animals that are not cattle and are kept for a lawful purpose.

Some of rabbits killed were Ms. Vickery’s pets, while others were born in captivity. They were not ‘wild.’ This matter needs a full investigation. Additionally, legislative reform to protect all animals in society is sorely needed. Take action - the rabbits should not pay the price for this stupidity.

Barbara Smith, a retired lawyer, is a member of the BC Competitive Trail Riders Association. 

A Channel News http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS3CWa6oS-4 Barbara Smith says she was entirely within her rights to have the 20-30 rabbits slaughtered, and says the hired killer was recommended by the Ministry of Environment.

October 4, 2010 Another incident at Coombs, executed by Barb Smith. This time she allegedly set her old dog onto the sanctuary property, owned by Wendy Huntbatch, operator of the World Parrot Refuge, while onlookers could only watch as rabbits ran for their lives. A special little bunny, who had overcome some obstacles, didn't make it. The UVic rabbits have endured enough tragedy. Security measures, including strong fencing and locked gates, are critical components in preventing further deadly attacks. This is common sense.

Update: Questions are being asked regarding the accuracy of this incident or if it even occurred.

October 5, 2010 Thanks to everybody who contacted the Law Society of B.C. An investigation was launched after complaints over Barbara Smith’s deplorable actions in having sanctuary rabbits annihilated who escaped their compound.  A lawyer who is a member of the society, but who is retired, is subject to the same code of conduct as practising lawyers.

Please keep writing the RCMP, the Ministry of Environment and other government officials, as well as the BC SPCA. These agencies all have obligations and duties to protect and prevent occurrences like this one. Defenseless beings of all species are being harmed and persecuted by ruthless individuals like Smith every day and are going unpunished because of our draconian laws. Help stop the casualties and cruelties inflicted on the innocent and voiceless. DON”T BE SILENT!

October 6, 2010 The Coombs rabbits have the locals talking. Some residents haven't been too pleased with their presence, while others don’t mind them. What is frustrating to people who care about the bunnies is that they remain unsafe. A visitor walked into the compound today, and although there was a worker mending the fencing, much more needs to be done. There weren’t many rabbits visible, and the worker didn’t know where they all were. Sadly though, a rabbit was spotted under a trailer in the parking lot, and about a dozen more in another area outside the confines. Other passersby have also noticed rabbits running loose. EARS has a duty in seeing the rabbits are protected. Otherwise, what was the point in saving them from UVic? There was more than enough in donations to hire fencing professionals months ago. Not only have the rabbits been let down, (remaining at risk) so have those who gave and supported the endeavor.  

October 9, 2010 Susan Vickery brought about 40-50 of her own rabbits to the Coombs sanctuary in mid-August while preparations were still in the early stages. They were free to roam, despite concerns being expressed at the time. Now, with a Ministry of Environment visit scheduled for the 14th, Vickery risks losing her permit if the refuge is found lacking. She told reporters that if officials aren’t satisfied “they will catch all the animals and, because they have nowhere to put them, they will kill them."

Meanwhile, about 45 rabbits arrived safely at the Texas sanctuary yesterday (picture) and the lucky rabbits at Cowichan Stn. are securely ensconced in their new quarters.

October 14, 2010  New fencing, resembling heavy-duty stucco wire and anchored to wire mesh “plates” buried in the ground has been installed at the Coombs compound. It should prevent the rabbits from tunnelling to freedom and another slaughter, says Vickery. Ministry of Environment spokesman David Currie said that although the ministry can seize animals from sanctuary operators deemed to be in violation of their permits, they will not be removing the rabbits. 

What is bothersome is that Currie has gone on record to say: “Where everyone gets confused is that these are cute little bunnies and not rats. But they’re actually the same thing. They're an invasive species and they’re a pest.” (referring to animals in this manner is derogatory and disrespectful)  He added that although the MoE want people to be concerned and care about wildlife, from grizzly bears right down to your rat, insects and frogs, there are some dangers in caring about wildlife “in a human way” and that is where they are trying to draw the line. (Source: Parksville Qualicum News)

October 17, 2010 On today’s visit to the refuge there were noticeable improvements, with clear signs of a work in progress. The MoE inspected it on Thursday, the 14th. Besides the perimeter wire fencing, there was interior fencing and pens with locked gates. We saw just one escaped rabbit, who had yet to be captured. On the adjacent property of Barbara Smith, there were two deer grazing peacefully alongside her horses. Smith has said she’ll have Vickery arrested if she comes on her land to try to return the few remaining stray bunnies to the sanctuary.

Over at UVic, there were considerable fewer rabbits, while construction and expansion as part of the University’s 5 Year Capital Plan 2010/11 was everywhere. (Left, Coombs; Centre, Coombs; Right, UVic)


October 26, 2010 Predictably, Barbara M. Smith has been cleared by the Law Society of BC after hiring a ‘pest-control specialist’ to kill about 30 rabbits that showed up on her property after escaping from the neighbouring MoE-approved Coombs refuge. The self-regulatory organization found her actions did not constitute a breach of society rules and could not be characterized as conduct unbecoming of a lawyer. Stuart Cameron, director of investigations said that in the course of the probe, it was confirmed that the RCMP are not scrutinizing Ms. Smith and the methods used appear to comply with the SPCA position regarding humane culling (read killing) of feral rabbits.

Meanwhile, trapping resumed at UVic, with just over 50 rabbits being handed over to EARS yesterday. Another 50 or so expected next week. They will eventually go to Coombs. Another sanctuary is purportedly underway at Whiskey Creek that could accommodate up to 350 rabbits.  An official from the MoE has said no applications have been received for permits for rabbits to be moved to Whiskey Creek. 

July 9, 2011 Another brutal attack on Coombs sanctuary rabbits

It was with utter shock and disgust that we heard that 20 rabbits had been brutally stomped to death after a break-in at the Coombs rabbit sanctuary. One can only imagine the terror of these little creatures. The sadistic attack occurred in mid-June, but wasn’t reported to the RCMP, the provincial government, or the SPCA until now. Susan Vickery, director of the refuge, claims she was too “numb” to report it earlier and that she wanted to have additional security in place. That has been done. She further added that she was concerned the province might review her licence. The province remains officially responsible for the feral rabbits from the university, as once former pet rabbits are abandoned they are designated as wildlife. They are listed under Schedule C of the Designation and Exemption Regulation of the Wildlife Act. 

Animal cruelty is a serious crime, and many are puzzled by Vickery’s behaviour and have questions. Oceanside RCMP Sgt. Darrell Robertson said Vickery should have immediately reported the incident so a timely investigation could start. "A break-in is certainly criminal.” Potential evidence has been lost. Additionally, the PCA Act was recently strengthened with significant penalties for those who are found guilty of committing such cowardly and vile crimes. Animal cruelty is widely recognized in reams of authoritative, academic research as a precursor to violence against humans.

If you have any information that could help in apprehending the person/s responsible for this cowardly and vile action please contact Crime Stoppers. 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)

Note: Human and non-human predators exist in all of society, but we have yet to learn how to protect ourselves from ourselves.  
Carmina Gooch  

August 24, 2011 Oceanside RCMP have concluded their investigation into the stomping death of the 20 rabbits at the Coombs compound with no arrests. It was hampered by the fact that EARS operator, Susan Vickery, didn’t report the occurrence until a month after the fact.

For updates see: Coombs news.

Sadly, the majority of the rabbits have not survived more than about a year after being relocated to Coombs. The big question is why? Vickery's not saying but we know that incompetence and the operator refusing to work with others played a big part. We hope the truth will one day be exposed.

UVic moves to rabbit-free campus; there'll be no mercy; sanctuary news; Coombs calamity; a rabbit dead every 2nd day; EARS says UVic survivors sent to AB

Coombs agricultural groups want UVic rabbits gone; PNE steps up

Related news: Injunction dismissed, Canmore activists forge on, the politics of it all, EARS contract, concerns mount for the rabbits; lethal control