Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


April 28, 2008  While the Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC would like all sales of live animals to be discontinued in pet stores, our ongoing correspondence with BC municipalities indicate that action prohibiting ‘livestock’ sales isn’t something local government is keen to enact.  Our following submission was sent to the City of North Vancouver and the District of West Vancouver, with additional copies circulated to a number of other municipal councils and key stakeholders.   



A number of recent news articles have pointed to the need for greater regulation of the pet livestock industry particularly at the point of sale. One particular case based out of Vancouver Island drew a significant amount of press attention. This case involved the sale of a puppy who was diagnosed with parvo and who subsequently died.  (reference attached

The sale of sick or diseased animals is far too frequent an occurrence. Animal rescue and animal welfare groups have myriad stories about sick pet store livestock, only a fraction of which garner broad public attention. Some owners are now resorting to legal action in order to address this issue. 

It is still exceedingly difficult to obtain full disclosure on the origins pet livestock, as provision of this information is not mandatory. Nor can pet livestock be treated like other product – replace it if it's broken – as this denies the validity of the emotional bonds that arise between people and their pets. 

The sale of sick animals is one part of a broader spectrum of problems that arise out of the pet livestock industry, as the following case illustrates. 


On April 1st, 2008, two pet store rabbits – one male, one female - bought from two separate North Shore pet stores (Noah's Pet Ark in West Vancouver and Pet Boutique in the City of North Vancouver) were surrendered to Rabbit Advocacy. The rabbits were approximately 5-6 months old and had been owned for about the past 4 months. The short time between purchase and surrender confirms a study by the RSPCA on rabbits that indicates most are kept for only short periods of time before the novelty wears off. (reference attached)  

Ten days later the female gave birth to two stillborn kits. That same week the male rabbit, Oreo, was taken to our veterinarian where subsequent testing determined his persistent respiratory distress was caused by Pasteurella multocida, a common bacteria residing in a rabbit’s nasal cavity. (reference attached)  Pasteurellosis is a difficult condition to cure, with antibiotics seeming only to provide temporary remission for the infection.  Breeding does are the main reservoirs for the disease with young rabbits becoming contaminated by contact with their mother.  Stress, overcrowding, poor husbandry, and poor air quality can trigger the flare-up of latent infection, which is a common problem associated with breeding operations.  

Rabbit Advocacy has currently incurred hundreds of dollars in vet bills for testing and continued treatment of Oreo, with sterilization of both rabbits yet to be done.   

Because pasteurella is highly contagious, because it is a transmittable zoonotic disease, and because of the difficulty in determining whether pasteurella was acquired at the store(s) in question or whether the kits were infected when purchased, Rabbit Advocacy has reported this instance to the BC SPCA, North Shore Health, and Bylaws and Licensing, City of North Vancouver.


While it is impossible to be certain, it seems likely that these rabbits were sold between 4-6 weeks of age. It also seems likely that one or both had pasteurella at the time.  Either they had acquired pasteurella at the breeders, during transportation, or at the store.  We were told that the male was sneezing when purchased from Pet Boutique. It is obvious that little or no information was provided on the folly of housing two maturing animals of the opposite sex in the same space, and discussion with the former owner certainly suggested he thought this pair was incapable of breeding. 

There are only two reasons we can think of that would lead someone to believe a pair of rabbits could not breed: either they were supposed to be the same sex, or they were already spayed/neutered.  

It would not be surprising if one or both of these rabbits had been mis-sexed, an all too common occurrence with rabbits. Certainly rabbit rescue groups across North America see this on an all too frequent basis, with inevitable repercussions.  

Even if it does not hold true in this instance we believe the failure to adequately sex immature rabbit kits, and the continuing lack of provision of information on the basics of sexing, care, housing, and provenance of pet livestock, leaves pet retailers open to charges of negligent misrepresentation. 

While municipalities may argue that the onus is on the pet store or the owner, as one body governing pet store regulation we believe that at a minimum local governments should do the following: 

A. In the interests of consumer protection municipalities should: 

1. Mandate full disclosure of the provenance of pet store livestock, including  

i) breeders name(s),

ii) times in transit,

iii) date stock arrived in the store

iv) the age of the stock at the time they arrived in store

v) detail any medical treatment prior to or during the stay in the store, including routine vaccinations 

2. Prohibit the sale of fertile animals as pet livestock. 

3. Require pet stores to provide information on the care, housing and needs of the animals they sell, in accordance with the “Five Freedoms” that provides the basis of animal welfare work done by large scale organizations like the RSPCA. 

B. mandate more frequent statutory inspections of pet livestock stores.           

C. require veterinarians to report any instances where animals known to have been purchased from stores are diagnosed with communicable diseases within 12 months of purchase.



Pet Boutique                                            Jane & Oreo

If you see something that bothers you, such as sick animals or filthy enclosures, file a complaint with the city, and contact the humane society (in BC, the SPCA) with the jurisdiction to investigate. Let us know, as well!

February 2011 update: In early February, we contacted the City of North Vancouver, as Pet Boutique, on Marine Dr. continued to sell rabbits in its store, in contravention of Bylaw No. 7040 that came into effect in September 2010. Mike Carson, owner of the business, claimed he had not been informed of the bylaw (which was untrue). He has now complied with the new regulations. 

November 2017 Pet Boutique has closed its doors!

Read more: PetSmart's Big Suffering for Small Animals; Global Exotic Breeders hell, cruelty charges approved

BC municipalities starting to prohibit rabbit sales in pet stores; UBCM resolution passes; letters; Vancouver 2017

Municipal Animal Control Issues -- Humane Canada

Visit our Rabbit Issues Page