Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters

 

The UVic rabbits are getting more press. It's an issue that's not going away. 

Rescuing UVic's rascally rabbits

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Kerrie-Ann Schoenit - Saanich News (online),
 
While disgruntled neighbours whine about the University of Victoria's exploding rabbit population, one woman is tackling the problem with her own bare hands.
 
Janitor Lesley Sanford rescued her first rabbit four years ago. She scooped up the baby, suffering from an eye disease, and plopped it in her shirt pocket. Working the night shift at UVic, she says she's seen it all. "Sickos" trying to stomp on them, rabbits swept away in the talons of hawks and owls, and more recently, rabbits made homeless by construction on campus.
 
Rabbits, she explained, are territorial so they can't just move to a new patch of grass when they lose their turf.
 
Sanford now shares her Highlands house with nineteen rabbits, some with missing limbs or eyes. Others were nursed back to health after being abandoned by their mothers. "I just bond with everything in about two seconds, so I'm a goner no matter what it is," she said.
 
Adept with animals (Sanford also has four dogs, seven cats, a horse, a cockatoo and a chinchilla), she's cut out gangrene and sewn up torn limbs while waiting for the rabbits to grow old enough to visit the veterinarian.
 
Earlier this week, she had four females spayed. She jokes her passion will drain her retirement savings, though she receives some help from the SPCA. While the university knows of her work, it doesn't contribute a cent, she says. "I'm one person with one wage," Sanford said.
 
With its new "don't feed" campaign, UVic is trying to pass the rabbits off as wildlife, she said. "They're not. They're domestic feral and I won't help perpetuate that lie."
 
She does have the support, however, of Saanich pet store owner, Lisa Nitkin. Pet stores have been criticized for indirectly contributing to the wild rabbit population by selling cheap, unfixed rabbits. Nitkin, who owns Pets West in Broadmead Village, didn't want to be lumped in with this group.
 
"We'd been hearing about this problem ongoing for about 15 years now and we said, 'If we're not part of the solution then we're part of the problem,'" she said. "We didn't want to be promoting this idea that rabbits are disposable."
 
About six months ago, she changed her retail store's policy to sell only rescued rabbits. She has them spayed or neutered for $75 and sells them for this price. The two rabbits she's selling at her store now are adoptees from Sanford.
 
Sales, however, have plummeted since she raised her price from about $25. Nitkin has gone from selling about two rabbits per month to one every two months. Still, Nitkin has no intention to return to the old ways. Relying on pet-accessory sales to make a profit, she's hoping that attitudes will change. "More and more, people are taking responsibility (for their cats)," Nitkin said. "We're not at that level yet with rabbits." 

In my conversation with an employee working at Petcetera's Victoria store I was informed that they currently have 11 baby rabbits for sale, all supplied by breeders.  This prompted the following letter:  

September 8, 2008

To: Petcetera and BC SPCA
Cc: Victoria City Council, Times Colonist
Re: Selling Intact Baby Rabbits

Hello, 

It is with great concern that despite Petcetera agreeing to stop sales of intact baby rabbits and serve as a satellite adoption centre for sterilized rabbits supplied by the BC SPCA, the promise has been breached.  It's been one year since ALL stores were to stop stocking bunnies supplied by breeders. 

With the ongoing news regarding the UVic rabbits, it's totally reprehensible and socially irresponsible, Mr Urbani, that you haven't done the right thing and voluntarily stopped rabbit sales.  This certainly can't be condoned by the BC SPCA, is it?  And where is the leadership of the SPCA in asking that BC municipalities introduce legislation banning the sale/adoption of unsterilized rabbits? 

How about asking for zero breeding of animals with 'overpopulation' issues?  Certainly proactive measures are far more cost-effective and humane than the alternative of dumping the unwanted into the environment or brought to the SPCA where many a rabbit's life has ended. 

Today I contacted the Victoria Petcetera and was informed that eleven baby rabbits are for sale and that staff cannot verify gender.  Of course not; the bunnies are too young.  Even qualified personnel would be challenged to make an accurate determination.  Petcetera rabbits are sold with a "no-sex guarantee" to the public, the vast majority of whom are inexperienced and unprepared to provide proper care or a lifetime commitment to these rabbits.  

Therefore I ask foremost for the sake of the rabbits, that sales immediately cease and efforts concentrated into preventative actions. 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Sincerely, 

Carmina Gooch
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC
www.rabbitadvocacy.com 
North Vancouver

Comment: It's nice to hear of people like Lesley Sanford, who go out of their way to help the UVic rabbits, and of store owners like Lisa Nitkin, who have voluntarily decided to do what's socially responsible, and that is to stop selling "cheap, unfixed rabbits."  Too bad Petcetera, the BC SPCA's business partner, hasn't done the same.   

Be a voice for the rabbits - Let Petcetera, the BC SPCA, and Victoria City Council know your thoughts. 

Releasing domestic rabbits into the environment is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and an offence under the PCA Act.  The BC Government considers them to be an "alien invasive species", yet domestic cats and dogs are not categorized as such.

Comment:  It's no surprise that we haven't heard back from Petcetera and the BC SPCA regarding our concerns about unsterilized baby rabbits being sold in pet stores.  We visited the Victoria store during the last week of September 2008, and sure enough, baby rabbits.  Holland Lops, supplied by the Dragon Trading Corp. and Netherland Dwarf Rabbits, supplied by Live Small Animals, were selling for $44.99. 

Read more: Petcetera's suppliers

Hunting UVic rabbits is illegal, inhumane, and immoral