Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters

 

Media Release: Dec. 23, 2009
 
PILOT PROJECT TESTS NON-LETHAL RABBIT CONTROL AT UVIC
 
The University of Victoria has entered into a pilot project agreement with Common Ground, a wildlife damage control company, as the next step toward a long-term management plan for the feral rabbit population on campus.
 
Under the agreement, Common Ground will test non-lethal approaches to remove at least 150 feral rabbits from areas in and around the university’s athletic fields. The pilot project involves live capture, removal from campus, sterilization and relocation to new homes.
 
The project will also identify the most effective methods and administrative structures for a long-term management plan as well as potential costs, the community’s capacity to respond and support a large-scale initiative, and the level of external resources— such as donations and sponsorships—that can be made available to assist.
 
“Our athletic fields were chosen for this pilot project because of the safety and potential health issues posed by the presence of rabbits,” says Richard Piskor, director of UVic’s Office of Occupational Health, Safety and Environment. “If this project proves successful, we will look at how the lessons learned can be applied elsewhere on campus within the context of a long-term management plan to reduce the rabbit population on university grounds to sustainable levels.”
 
The feral rabbits at UVic are pets or descendants of pets that were abandoned on campus by members of the community. Although many people on and off-campus enjoy the presence of rabbits, their activities can pose risks to human health and safety, and cause damage to plants and property. The rabbits are also dispersing into surrounding neighbourhoods.

 
“Feral rabbits are a region-wide issue that got its start by irresponsible owners abandoning their pets in public spaces,” says Piskor. “It affects not only UVic but also properties around the Capital Region and it’s going to take a region-wide effort to resolve it—by governments, municipalities, organizations and individuals.
 
“UVic recognizes we can play a key role by tackling the issue on our campus. This pilot project represents a significant step toward that goal.”
 
Community members or organizations who are interested in volunteering, providing financial support, or potential new homes for the rabbits captured during the pilot project are encouraged to contact Common Ground through
http://earthanimalrights.org.
 
The university is also supporting ongoing efforts by the BC SPCA to encourage local governments to toughen up their bylaws dealing with rabbit abandonment and to consider banning the sale of unspayed and unneutered rabbits, except to registered or licensed breeders.
 
UVic is continuing its public awareness campaign to change how people view and interact with feral rabbits on campus. The campaign is aimed at preventing further rabbit abandonment, reducing human-provided food sources for rabbits and preventing harassment of and cruelty to rabbits.
 
Common Ground was the successful applicant in a request for proposals (RFP) process conducted in September. Since that time, UVic has been in discussions with Common Ground on elements of the project and has consulted with the BC Ministry of Environment, which has jurisdiction over feral rabbits under the BC Wildlife Act. Preliminary work starts immediately and the project will continue into January and February.
 
“The BC SPCA is pleased that UVic is taking this issue seriously and attempting non-lethal control methods as a pilot, but the abandonment of rabbits is a community-wide issue that needs community-supported solutions,” says Sara Dubois, manager of wildlife services for the BC SPCA.
 
“Controlling the rabbit population on campus is in the best animal welfare interest of the rabbits and it is important that surrounding communities assist UVic’s feral rabbit management through bylaw changes and public education programs,” adds Dubois. “Members of the public need to understand both the responsibilities and rewards of owning a rabbit and that it is not only illegal to abandon their pets, but very inhumane.”
 

For more information on the pilot project and the university’s rabbit awareness campaign, visit http://www.uvic.ca/rabbits.
 
Media contacts: Richard Piskor (Occupational Health, Safety and Environment) at 250-721-8875 or rpiskor@uvic.ca  (available for interviews until 3 p.m., Dec. 24) Valerie Shore (UVic Communications) at 250-721-7641 or vshore@uvic.ca

UVic rabbits' days may be numbered  

Dec. 23, 2009 Ian Bailey, Globe and Mail   

B.C. university gives wildlife control company two months to solve bunny overcrowding humanely

The University of Victoria's rebel rabbits have one last chance. As hundreds of feral rabbits run wild on campus, officials on Wednesday announced they have hired a Vancouver Island wildlife damage-control company on a $12,800 contract to test non-lethal methods for dealing with the bunnies. 

The company, Common Ground, has the first two months of 2010 to deal with the rabbits, or else they may be doomed. 

“That's the point where we would then consider alternatives and those alternatives may include lethal means,” Richard Piskor, director of occupational health, safety and environment for the university, said yesterday. 

The company will test tactics with about 150 rabbits at the school's athletic fields, about 20 hectares of the 150-hectare campus where the B.C. SPCA estimates there are as many as 2,000 feral rabbits on the hop. 

These are so-called European rabbits not native to the region, which have been let loose over the past 15 years and multiplied, creating generations of rabbits that roam with impunity. They dig warrens that people have tripped over, eat plants that must be replaced at significant cost and occasionally bite humans foolish enough to try and feed them.

Yesterday the problem was as obvious as the view from Mr. Piskor's ground-floor office. “They're sitting on the grass on a small raised area, and eating grass,” he said, adding the rabbits seemed oblivious to passersby. 

“Many of them are unafraid of people in close proximity. You can walk right past them and they don't run away. People who have got food and are attempting to feed rabbits will have large numbers of rabbits approach them very closely.” 

Sara Dubois, manager of wildlife services for the B.C. SPCA, said she has seen worse in her visits to the campus this year. “You would see at least 50 to 100 rabbits while walking around campus. It's significant. It's not like these animals are hiding in the bushes. They are all over the place,” said Ms. Dubois, who is also a graduate of the university. 

It's a “pretty significant” situation, she said, comparing it to a rabbit infestation that has dogged Kelowna, where a program of humane capture is continuing until 2011. She describes the University of Victoria problem as a sad, chaotic situation with the rabbits falling prey to such predators as hawks and owls. In other cases, newly abandoned rabbits have been found with injuries that suggest they have been attacked by rabbits who are more settled in the area. 

At times, baby rabbits have been raised by students then released when school's out. Many people think the rabbits are cute, she says. “But they don't fully understand the life of these animals, and the obstacles given they were raised to be domestic rabbits. They aren't prepared for this life.” 

Ms. Dubois said she supports the university's tactics, and acknowledges that lethal measures may be necessary. “It's not something we're going to support nor are we going to oppose, but we acknowledge that may happen and we would need to ensure that would be done humanely,” she said. 

In an e-mail response, an official with Common Ground declined specific comment on the program, deferring comment to the university. 

However, a notice posted on the company website promises to relocate 150 rabbits to “rabbit sanctuaries” provided by animal-welfare organizations that “will provide a safe and inviting haven where our bunnies will live out for the remainder of their lives. 

“We will make sure every bunny is healthy and spayed or neutered before making the move.” They also plan to keep small groups of rabbits together because “rabbits are social animals; family and friends are important to them.” 

“We are committed to the humane, responsible and respectful treatment of these animals through this transition period, and beyond.”

January 1, 2010 The first group of fifty rabbits has been rounded up by volunteers and all appear to be healthy. They will be spayed and neutered in the coming weeks, and then small groups will be placed in rabbit sanctuaries. The Rabbit Advocacy Group is in regular contact with Common Ground.

Time to control bunny breeding

Editorial: Oak Bay News January 04, 2010

Municipal answer to rabbit problem makes sense

One last chance. That seems to be all that’s left for the feral rabbits running wild on the University of Victoria campus.

As the new year begins, UVic is trying to trap and neuter 150 of the critters before either adopting them to new homes or sending them to sanctuaries. If the plan doesn’t work, campus officials aren’t sure what will come next, but have made no bones about the fact that lethal means will be contemplated to control the population – estimated, probably conservatively, at well over 1,000 animals.

The rabbits, officials say, have become a safety hazard. Their droppings and burrow holes on sports fields could cause injury and infection. Walking around campus, it’s hard to look at the rabbits as a problem in need of a lethal solution.

The bunnies – or their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. – arrived on campus as unwanted pets. In the middle of the night, cars pulled up and unloaded rabbits given as Christmas or birthday gifts. The rabbits then just did what rabbits do, they bred.

Now the university is in the unfortunate position of having to control a situation that was not of their making. The onus should belong to the irresponsible pet owners who abandoned their animals.

Advocating for legislation to enforce basic personal responsibility is uncomfortable. But, in an era where provinces have to pass laws to tell drivers not to send text messages from behind the wheel, it is becoming the norm.

We endorse the B.C. SPCA’s call for municipalities to pass bylaws requiring rabbit breeders to neuter the animals before they are sold. Alone, it won’t help control the existing wild rabbit population, but it would limit its future growth.

January 06, 2010  

Letter to OB News from Carmina Gooch, RAG BC 

Re:  Oak Bay News Editorial - Time to control bunny breeding

Dear Editor: 

The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC supports the efforts of UVic in taking a humane approach to the campus rabbits.  This is a situation that has been escalating for a great many years. Colonies of unwanted domestic rabbits and their offspring can be found in municipalities throughout BC.  We have lobbied local government for years asking that the unregulated and selling of unsterilized rabbits be addressed.  Unfortunately, it appears to be the standard for government to react, when proactive bylaws, like restricting the sale of unaltered rabbits, could have been implemented a long time ago.  

Pet stores like Victoria's Petcetera, continue to sell baby rabbits, which will undoubtedly be bought on impulse and then discarded into the environment once the novelty has worn off.  Until recently, the SPCA maintained a controversial business relationship with Petcetera. 

Education, legislation, and valuing our pets as lifetime commitments are all part of a collaborative effort that will benefit both rabbit and community.  

UVic relocates rabbits 

By: Chris Herhalt - Charlatan   Post Date: Fri, 08/01/2010  

The University of Victoria has finally found a solution to part of its feral rabbit problem in the form of a $12,800 contract to remove, sterilize and relocate up to 150 bunnies that run wild on the campus. UVic officials announced Dec. 23 that Common Ground, a local wildlife damage control company, will begin humanely relocating bunnies from the university’s athletic grounds.

“We’ve identified this area as the one to begin working on. . . . It’s the area we’ve always talked about,” said Richard Piskor, the university’s director of occupational health, safety and environment.

Fifty rabbits have already been caught, sterilized and relocated.

Under the terms of the contract, Common Ground has until the end of February to de-rabbit UVic’s athletic grounds and file a report with possible next steps.

Although things have gone well so far, Piskor said bringing UVic’s rabbit population down to acceptable levels will be expensive. “We have to try to look at community resources, community support and in-kind contributions . . . [earthanimalrights.org] are accepting donations, looking at volunteer opportunities and working with the veterinary community to see what kind of assistance can be determined.”

Carmina Gooch of the BC Rabbit Advocacy Group said she is excited by the announcement that the rabbit problem is being dealt with humanely. “We’re very pleased that UVic has chosen Common Ground. . . . They’re a good organization,” she said.

The BC Rabbit Advocacy Group has taken several rabbits to their sanctuary and expect to take many more.

Gooch said the surrounding community needs to get involved for the effort to succeed. “Stop unregulated breeding and pet store buying. . . . It seems like the City of Victoria will need to create new bylaws that will prohibit the sale of unaltered rabbits in pet stores. . . . It takes involvement from everybody,” Gooch said.

Although there are many more bunnies to snatch, it seems as if UVic’s battle with the feral rabbits is finally beginning to turn the corner.

January 18, 2010 Carmina Gooch, RAG BC, wrote to City of Victoria officials regarding the rabbits at UVic, and the issues surrounding the unregulated breeding and selling of pet bunnies.  A response from one councillor stated that while he would support the distribution of information promoting sterilization, he felt a bylaw making it mandatory wasn't necessary at this point.  He further added that he felt that the University has made too much of the rabbit situation, such as the unsupported suggestion that it could lead to health concerns for people using the UVic sports fields.

February 8, 2010 There's been a lot of back and forth between the MoE and UVic officials regarding the issue of permits which has resulted in the feral rabbit project being put on hold.  The MoE appears to be putting up unreasonable and impractical obstacles.  Domestic rabbits don't immediately become "wildlife” once they are abandoned by their owners.  They are "stray."  There is neither clarity nor consistency in regulations with regard to the species of animal the Ministry considers as "wildlife."  

CHEK TV had a small segment on the 10th and from the Times Colonist February 13, 2010:  

Rabbit-trap scheme trips over red tape

Rabbits on the loose at UVic: In British Columbia, a permit is needed to keep feral European rabbits more than 24 hours. Plans to capture about 150 feral rabbits hopping around the University of Victoria are temporarily on hold after tripping over provincial red tape.

Environment Ministry spokesman Suntanu Dalal said under the Wildlife Act, feral European rabbits are considered wildlife, so holding them for more than 24 hours requires a permit.

"Rabbits that are captured from University of Victoria grounds cannot be released anytime, anywhere except back on to University of Victoria grounds," he said. Also, the facility where the animals are to be held and the vehicle in which they are to be transported must be inspected before any animals are trapped. Dalal said it usually takes about four weeks to obtain a permit after the information is submitted. "We will respond as quickly as we can," he said. 

February 12, 2010 While UVic has said that the rabbits captured during the pilot project cannot be rereleased onto the campus, the decision makers are being unreasonable in not looking toward a long-term goal of having sterilized rabbits put back into their natural environment on the university grounds.  This is perfectly logical, and with the population stabilized, it will eventually be reduced through natural attrition.   

Sterilize rabbits, then release them at UVic 

Times Colonist February 21, 2010  

Letter-writers have suggestions to deal with the University of Victoria's exploding rabbit population. One recommends rereleasing them after they are sterilized, while another urges municipalities to pass bylaws restricting the sale of unsterilized rabbits.  

Maidie Hilmo of Victoria wrote:

The University of Victoria's mission is "to inspire people." I was inspired by its cultural milieu, which included rabbits quietly socializing with each other, a reminder of what we all want -- a peaceful community.

Now when I drive to UVic, I see the doomed rabbits, some already trapped and the rest about to be. If only they could be released back to their home after being sterilized. Fences around special areas could be modified by good-quality metal barriers going into the ground a foot or more.

For several years these rabbits have been vilified, including statements that they are, for example, undermining the buildings. It does not say much for the architects and engineers if steel and concrete buildings with foundations going down 20 feet or more could collapse because of rabbits.

Rabbits used to freedom will not thrive in captivity. There are no animal-welfare organizations in the Victoria area or on the Lower Mainland that have havens or sanctuaries for these rabbits.

Unless someone offers appropriate acreage for free-roaming sterilized rabbits, there is only one solution that accords with the values of this university. Let us model humane ways in dealing with the innocent and vulnerable.

Give the sterilized rabbits back their freedom and return them to their home at UVic, where they are part of the culture.

March 5, 2010 Unfortunately, UVic officials have decided to discontinue the pilot project. Common Ground has submitted its final report.  More to come.

March 19, 2010 There has been considerable discussion among a number of interested parties about this rabbit project and the ongoing bureaucratic saga and power plays that have been staged over the last decade or so at this institution. The administrators have been unable to oversee a successful and cooperative initiative that would see the lives of the rabbits spared.  Was the project set up in such a way to run aground from the onset?  Why didn’t UVic officials have the required permits in place prior to the pilot starting?  What sort of spin will Communications give media as to why the project’s been concluded? Is an extermination imminent? A Sidney “environmental consulting” company representative has been invited to the planned release on Sunday of forty of the fifty rabbits that have trapped, vet checked, and sterilized.  Media wasn't notified.  Was previous talk regarding a long-term humane plan a sham?  We may not have to wait long to find out.

 An excerpt from Colin Newel’s blog  13 03 10  Winter all fun, food and frolic - rabbits on the rampage – UVic 

... there is little, if any, intelligent life at UVic. I am talking about the decision makers – you know, the Vee-Pee’s and executives that run the joint… whose motto is: “If it ain’t broken… break it!”
Who are generally so wishy-washy
about, well, everything that they could not run a 15 cent lemonade stand without running it into the ground worrying about the actuarial implications of running a lemonade stand. 

Bottom line: The administration at UVic is utterly incapable of coming to a decision on the issue of the rabbit copulation explosion. They can’t do it. They are not built for it.   

Comment to blog: In my experience if you want to be promoted to any kind of executive position you must demonstrate only a complete lack of capability and a passion for cutting throats. Then you get raises for making illogical decisions that inconvenience everyone beneath you.

March 21, 2010 The forty rabbits have been re-released on campus, with no humane management program in place.

UVic runs up white flag in battle of the bunnies 

By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist updated March 25, 2010  

The battle of the bunnies at the University of Victoria has reached a stalemate.

A pilot plan to capture, sterilize and relocate 150 feral rabbits living around the UVic playing fields has bitten the dust because new homes cannot be found for the sterilized animals. Instead of being sent to rabbit sanctuaries as planned, 40 of the 51 animals that were captured, sterilized and tattooed have been re-released into a quiet area on campus.

That means the university is back at square one with its long-standing rabbit problem, just in time for the spring breeding season.

The cost of the rabbit pilot project was $17,743 -- or $348 per rabbit -- which paid for Common Ground, a wildlife damage control company, to catch the bunnies and transport them. The bill also includes veterinary services, feed, bedding and cage construction.

Despite the failure -- partially due to the province requiring permits for adoption of feral rabbits -- the project has been a learning experience, said Richard Piskor, director of UVic's office of occupational health, safety and environment. "There's no denying it is a lot of money, but we had some successes and we learned some valuable lessons," he said.

The re-released rabbits, with identification tattoos in their ears, will be away from designated rabbit-free zones -- such as playing fields and residential areas -- and will be monitored as they move into existing bunny colonies.

The university now knows it is relatively easy to humanely catch bunnies and convince veterinarians to sterilize them, Piskor said.

But the question of what to do with the rabbits remains unanswered and options such as a cull or massive spay/neuter program might be considered. "We want to ensure we are doing the right thing and, in close consultation with the Ministry of Environment and B.C. SPCA, we'll explore non-lethal options before the lethal options," Piskor said.

That would include looking at a vasectomy and release plan previously suggested by Greater Victoria veterinarian Nick Shaw, and supporting requests for tougher rabbit-abandonment bylaws or a ban on the sale of unsterilized rabbits.

It's believed there are between 1,000 and 2,000 feral rabbits at UVic. The university is losing irreplaceable trees planted in the 1960s and those commemorating events such as the Commonwealth Games, Piskor said.

Many of the 51 animals captured during the pilot project were found to be injured or malnourished, proving the campus is not a healthy home for rabbits, Piskor said. One was euthanized because of poor health, two had already been spayed by previous owners and two of the rabbits were pregnant.

Sara Dubois, B.C. SPCA manager of wildlife services, said rabbit owners must realize that most of their pets released on campus die painful and unpleasant deaths. "They are not living the good life on campus. Many of them get hit by cars or eaten by predators," she said. Rabbits in captivity live up to 10 years and there are few potential homes, Dubois said.

A massive spay/neuter program would have to catch at least 80 per cent of the population to be successful, said Dubois, who acknowledges UVic may have to consider a cull. The SPCA would want to ensure a humane cull, probably through lethal injection, Dubois said.

March 27, 2010 Feedback to RAG BC regarding the pilot project has been one of worry as to UVic's next plan.  The feeling is that officials are determined to go ahead with lethal measures in the near future. Please contact us if you're interested in any action alerts.  Send letters with your thoughts to media outlets such as the Times Colonist, A-Channel News, and CBC.  Meanwhile, Long Beach City College officials are tackling the roughly 300 rabbits on campus in a humane manner.  

Overrun SoCal college seeks to wrangle rabbits  

March 25, 2010 updated cbs47.tv   

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Long Beach City College officials are hopping into action against a bunny infestation that's overtaking their campus. 

School staff have started posting signs warning of possible $500 fines and jail time for abandoning animals on the grassy campus that's become a dumping ground for unwanted pet rabbits. 

Veterinarians are also on campus working to spay and neuter the rabbits, with help from volunteers who collect the animals and take care of them after surgery. Local animal rights activists, meanwhile, are aiding the college by seeking adoptive homes for the creatures. 

The efforts come several months after officials counted more than 300 of the flower-chomping furballs on their campus. They fear there could be many more now, since they multiply like ... well, you get the picture.

Read more: What's next for the bunnies?