Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Vet offers to give vasectomies to UVic's super-fertile rabbits

March 14, 2009 By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist

A series of quick snips could cut down on the University of Victoria's problem rabbit population, says a local veterinarian. Nick Shaw, owner of Shaw Pet Hospitals, is offering free vasectomies to male bunnies hopping around campus.

Shaw, who has three clinics in Greater Victoria, said he would be willing to pick up most of the costs, provided he and his staff could hold fundraising events to help defray expenses. "My staff had some wonderful ideas on how to promote it and we could sell buttons and ask for donations to support the program," said Shaw, who added the normal cost for a rabbit vasectomy would be about $100 for an individual and $60 each for a bunch of bunnies.

Shaw first approached the university about a year ago, at the suggestion of lab assistant Tamara Lovegrove, a UVic graduate who was willing to mobilize her student friends to round up the male rabbits. But Shaw was told there would first have to be a bunny count. "Then they would just never commit to anything," he said.

However, with a growing rabbit population and a fracas this week over a student-newsletter article that recommended killing the rabbits and cooking them in a savoury stew, the university is now interested in talking to Shaw. "It's a very generous offer he's making. Someone from the university will be contacting him and we would like to continue this conversation," said spokeswoman Patty Pitts.

Vasectomies would be much more effective than spaying or neutering, said Shaw. The males remain territorial because the testicles are still intact, meaning they would chase out invading males, and the females will only go out of heat once they have mated, whether or not they are impregnated.

That means the rabbits can continue doing what rabbits do best, "but when the rabbit ejaculates there is no sperm in the fluid," said Lovegrove, who has worked at Shaw Pet Hospitals for about three years.

Shaw believes each of the eight veterinarians on staff could do two or three bunny vasectomies a day, which would soon make a dent in the population. "The students could start capturing the male bunnies and bring them in a few at a time and we could start taking care of them," he said.

Students could be taught to tell the males from females and, once the operation was completed, the rabbit would have a hole punched in its ear to identify it as a vasectomized bunny. "We hope we could develop a technique for doing it very quickly. Some of the initial ones will be test cases," Shaw said. "It's much better than what was being proposed. I'm not in favour of bashing their heads on the ground."

Shaw said he can't promise to provide vasectomies for every single rabbit, but he believes the campaign could have applications in other communities where there are problems with feral animals. "I think we would try and write up a paper on it later, looking at the statistics -- humane treatment for feral rabbits," he said.

A couple of comments:

March 14, 2009 - 9:23 AM

John, rabbits are not rodents at all, they are lagomorphs. They are more closely related to deer and horses than rodents. Furthermore, this problem is man made and involves a domestic species of rabbit, not a wild one, so please don't equate this issue with wild rat/mice infestations. And yes, "Tasty Stew", there are many problems in this world, but this is one that irresponsible pet owners in this community have created and we as an active part of that same community can work together to remedy it. So many problems seem insurmountable, but intelligent people try their best to offer feasible solutions and this does not mean that we are ignoring other issues, simply dealing with ones that we can. To ignore this particular issue would be burying our "head in the sand" as you say.

March 14, 2009 - 11:08 AM 

Thank you to Dr. Shaw and his staff. The University should have taken him up on his offer immediately, instead of doing nothing. I know that, for example, in 2004, a rabbit count was being conducted, and with rabbits being the prolific breeders they are, and reports of the University quietly carrying out "culls," officials probably hoped the 'problem' would go away. And yes, the City of Victoria, has yet to address the matter of the breeding and selling of unsterilized rabbits, despite a number of requests to do so. www.rabbitadvocacy.com

Vet must apply to perform rabbit vasectomies at UVic

April 8, 2009 By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist

A local veterinarian will have to snip through red tape before he is allowed to administer vasectomies to rabbits at the University of Victoria.

Questions about the ethics of the process have put a temporary halt to Nick Shaw's plans to provide free vasectomies to the burgeoning rabbit population at the university. Shaw, owner of Shaw Pet Hospitals, had hoped to start the surgeries on male rabbits before the spring mating season kicks into high gear.

But the rabbits are feral and come under the Wildlife Act, meaning they cannot be moved more than one kilometre or kept for more than 24 hours without a permit from the provincial Environment Ministry, said Deb Sexsmith, manager of business services for the university's vice-president of finance and operations.

Also, before he submits a written proposal that will be studied by several university committees, Shaw wants to remove about 10 rabbits so he can test the procedure for speed and efficiency. But that amounts to research, Sexsmith said. "As a university we have to be very careful about the ethical treatment of animals and research proposals would have to be examined."

Shaw said he plans to go ahead with the vasectomy trial with the help of Jeff Krieger of Alternative Wildlife Solutions, who has a provincial permit and who has been asked to help homeowners in the area cope with the rabbits' voracious appetite for garden plants.

"He's going to bring us some bunnies. We're not planning on harming them," Shaw said. "We are just trying to determine the fastest and most efficient technique."

Rabbit vasectomies are rarely performed. Owners of domestic varieties usually prefer to neuter their pets. From the rabbit point of view, a vasectomy is preferable, since patients keep their genitalia and remain territorial, chasing out other males, although they are unable to impregnate female rabbits.

Shaw plans to fundraise to underwrite some of the costs of the procedures.

The rabbit population explosion at the university, created partly by people dumping domestic pets, causes inbreeding and results in disease. The vasectomies will help ensure a healthy population, said Krieger.

Comment: A few mammalian species, such as rabbits, do not have a defined oestrous cycle.  Ovulation is spontaneous and happens after copulation. Rabbits are able to conceive at almost any arbitrary moment.  There are 3-4 days per month when they are non-receptive.

The Victoria Times Colonist ran another story on April 16, 2009 regarding options to curb Uvicís rabbit population.  Meyer Industries developer and pitchman Ed Meyers explains the appeal of the Rodenator Pro, a tool that pumps rabbit burrows with oxygen and propane and ignites the gas with a spark, blowing up the rabbits. The U.S.-made tool has been used with some success at a Spokane arboretum to eradicate ground-burrowing squirrels. But publicity about the practice generated criticism from across the U.S., particularly after the story aired on a national radio program.  Thereís no way this cruelty would be endorsed by any rational person.  Uvic is considering non-lethal methods, among them rabbit vasectomies, as a way to reduce the population.  The SPCA prefers that rabbits are euthanized using barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, or potassium chloride in conjunction with general anesthesia. 

A comment by Carmina
Apr 17 2009, 5:55 PM, National Post 

Makes you ashamed to belong to the human race when you've got idiots and their redneck supporters who would think that carrying out such a despicable and inhumane act on other living creatures is somehow acceptable.  No wonder there's no peace in today's world.

August 31, 2009 The University wishes to conduct a short-term humane rabbit trap/sterilization/adoption pilot project and has asked interested parties to respond to the RFP.  The objective is to provide viable solutions to the long-term management of the rabbits on campus.  The Rabbit Advocacy Group was among those contacted.

The contractor will be required to remove a minimum of 150 rabbits from the recreational and athletic fields.  Of concern is the University's request that the rabbits be "adopted" into individual homes.  These rabbits are used to living freely on campus and are not suitable as "pets." 

Carmina Gooch was interviewed by Ben Hadaway, CBC Radio (Vancouver) on the subject.  Listen to the Early Edition, September 2nd to hear comments such as, unfortunately people don't want adult rabbits, generally opting to buy baby rabbits which usually end up in cages.

2009 UVic's feral bunnies up for adoption

March 2009 Hunting UVic rabbits is illegal, inhumane, and immoral

There's plenty more to read on our Pet Shops/Rabbits/Legislation page

California Debates Pet-Sterilization Law; passed 14-1; local & state laws