Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


March 13, 2008 

From Langara's The Voice the simmering debate about no-kill shelters boils over.  Melissa Smalley, journalism student writes that "for years, animal welfare organizations in B.C. have been fighting against animal abuse, but a growing battle within these groups has pitted self-proclaimed "no-kill" shelters against those that euthanize animals."  The BC SPCA maintains that "it will only euthanize an animal if it exhibits untreatable aggression, or if it has an untreatable illness."  This, of course, is simply not true.  Perfectly healthy animals are often put down due to lack of space.  As I (Carmina) stated, "rabbits are a low priority for the BC SPCA and certain branches will put them down almost immediately.  Rabbits are overlooked and don't get 'adopted' easily so the SPCA is reluctant to spend money on them." Photo, Carmina Gooch, Founder of the Rabbit Advocacy Group of B.C., with Henry, Gina, and Jack


February 13, 2008  The BC SPCA's CEO, Craig Daniell had responded to an earlier Vancouver Sun editorial by stating that this agency is known for its "progressive work in animal welfare."  Again, not so.  The following letter (edited) was published on March 3, 2008.  


Mr. Daniell, CEO of the BC SPCA certainly can't be speaking about rabbits when he states that this agency is known for its "progressive work in animal welfare."  Rabbits kept in lab cages at the Vancouver branch from 2004-2006  with no time out for exercise, a feature story in the Winter 2006 edition of "Bark", the kids magazine, recognizing rabbits as the "multiplying champion", yet to this day not sterilizing all their rabbits prior to rehoming, and yet another article stating two hours daily outside a cage is sufficient. 

Then of course there's Penny Stone, general manager of the Victoria SPCA, saying in a March 2007 article from the Times Colonist that rabbits are "cage animals."  

And let's not overlook all the rabbits that I bought out or were transferred to me and other rabbit rescue groups because they were under threat of "euthanasia" or sitting on Death Row.  Perfectly healthy rabbits, not "beyond medical help", nor "highly aggressive" as Mr. Daniell would have one believe.  And finally, lest we forget, all the individual lives gone, the ones nobody saved.  The homeless, now dead.  

Progressive animal welfare? I think not. 

Carmina Gooch
North Vancouver

For years the SPCA has been killing the homeless as a means of reducing pet populations.  Now that there is more scrutiny and increased public awareness, this organization has been forced to make some changes.  However, what goes on behind closed doors is another story, and where there's power there's abuse.  

Excuses to kill are a matter of routine; cats because they have colds, dogs because they've failed a (faulty) temperament test, rodents because they go largely unnoticed, and rabbits because they're unwanted.  It's stressful for any animal to be left in a cage in an unfamiliar environment, so it's no surprise that physical and emotional health are likely to deteriorate.  What is unconscionable is that an animal welfare organization that's supposed to provide leadership and speak for those who can't, hasn't.  

Why was Peter Rabbit killed by the SPCA?
by Carmina Gooch

On September 13, 2006 a Dutch-breed rabbit named "Peter", who was at the Vancouver SPCA and available for rehoming was "put down." Evidently this rabbit bit somebody who was unfamiliar and inexperienced in rabbit care. As there are a number of volunteers, including a House Rabbit Society representative and an SPCA "approved rescue" group whom management could have consulted with, why such a hasty decision? Couldn't the rabbit have been transferred out and into a foster home? And isn't there training and protocol for those who handle animals?

Often animals arrive from less than ideal circumstances, traumatized, mistreated, and so forth, and to be further stressed in an unfamiliar environment, without being given an allotted minimum daily time for exercise outside the cage, it should be expected that pre-existing conditions will worsen or new ones develop. Rabbits are prey animals and if they are provoked or feel threatened will do what comes naturally in order to protect themselves. It's a fear based aggression. So how can one make the leap that the rabbit is "vicious," so that must translate to "dangerous," and that could be a "threat" to humans, and that "threat" must be eliminated? It appears that the conclusion reached had more to do with the possibility of liability rather than that of animal welfare. Surely a rabbit with issues doesn't pose the same risk, for example, as an aggressive dog.

In my many years of rabbit rescue I have found that those with "aggressive" tendencies will calm down once they are in a stable environment, are shown kindness, and settle into a routine. It does take time and in the case of Peter rabbit, there were alternatives and help available, yet these options weren't utilized. Peter rabbit was made to pay the price.

It has been said that the whole issue of human dominance over other species and our relationship with animals as pets is beset with misery, and that's putting it mildly.

"In studying the traits and dispositions of the so-called lower animals, and contrasting them with man's, I find the result humiliating."
— Mark Twain, American author and humourist, 1835 - 1910

"The wild, cruel beast is not behind the bars of the cage. He is in front of it."
— Dr Axel Munthe, Swedish physician, psychiatrist and author, 1857 - 1949


Read more on our Rabbit Issues Page

It is incumbent upon all of us to take our responsibilities and commitment as pet guardians seriously and for animal welfare organizations to demonstrate leadership and new initiatives which reflect the position that companion animals are valued members of society. The commercial impetus for laws protecting animals is as key as the humanitarian one.  

Read more: Kill rates alarmingly high at animal 'shelters'; THS; New Westminster hears animal advocates; new policies

Comment: Across Canada, our provincial law enforcement authorities only act in response to complaints from the public. For this system to work to protect animals, animal abuse and neglect have to be visible. However, the vast majority of suffering to animals in our society is hidden away in windowless buildings on private property.

There is no governmental oversight of farms, for example, so concerned members of the public do what law enforcement officers are not doing. They are going undercover and exposing the horrors. In other instances, pets are being rescued from neglectful and/or abusive ‘owners’, again because of the failures of our system and outdated animal cruelty laws. The SPCA has been deficient in its obligations to protect the voiceless, in part because of volume of calls and lack of finances. There are also many repeat offenders, and cases where the agency has failed to act in a timely manner or not at all.

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Ways to help prevent and/or end the pet homelessness crisis

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