Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


UVic Student Faces Charges of Animal Cruelty Following Beating Incident  

May 19, 2004. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.  A student from the University of Victoria is facing charges under the Criminal Code of Canada after allegedly beating a rabbit on the UVic campus in February. The SPCA was called out to the campus near midnight on February 6th, 2004, after witnesses reported that a young man held the feral rabbit to the ground, punching it repeatedly. The rabbit was rushed to the Elk Lake Veterinary Hospital, where it later died despite efforts to treat its injuries. "The veterinarian said the rabbit was vocalizing loudly, which is unusual for a rabbit and may be an indication of the extreme pain it was suffering," says Hugh Coghill, Senior Animal Protection Officer for the BC SPCA. A post mortem report indicated that the rabbit died of injuries "compatible with severe trauma".

Coghill said the SPCA is pleased that Crown Counsel has approved the charges. "Some people may think, 'well, it is only a rabbit'", but when an individual inflicts pain and suffering on a helpless animal, it should be a serious concern for the community," says Coghill. "We know that there is a strong link between animal abuse and violence to humans and we have to take all incidents of cruelty and torture seriously in order to promote humane and compassionate communities." Nicholas Campbell will make his first court appearance on June 24th, 2004.

Judge lets bunny killer off with scolding

Thursday, September 23, 2004 Paul Walton CanWest News 

NANAIMO -- An 18-year-old man who, in a drunken rage, punched a rabbit at the University of Victoria, has been spared a criminal record.

Nicholas Campbell, now a second-year student at UVic, pleaded guilty in Nanaimo provincial court Wednesday to causing unnecessary cruelty to an animal in the Feb. 6 incident. He was given an absolute discharge.

"After drinking too much . . . Mr. Campbell and another young man came up with the idea of catching a rabbit in a blanket," said defence lawyer Ron Lamperson. The bunny bit Campbell as it was caught, and Campbell punched it.

Crown counsel Ron Parsons said the incident came to light when a student crossing the campus about 11:30 p.m. saw Campbell punch the animal.  A veterinarian tried to save the rabbit, but it died. An SPCA spokesman said at the time the charge was laid that the rabbit was pregnant.

The Crown and defence agreed an absolute discharge was appropriate for Campbell, a young man with an ambition to be a lawyer. Lamperson said "humiliating" publicity about the charge and remorse shown by Campbell should result in the discharge.

Parsons said that had the punch immediately killed the rabbit, there would have been no charge. The law on animal cruelty cites "unnecessary suffering" as the required element. A pre-sentence report referred to by Parsons and Lamperson concluded that Campbell has no violent tendencies.

Judge Leo Nimsick agreed to the absolute discharge, but scolded Campbell. "It may have seemed innocent at the time, but the rabbit did what rabbits will do," said Nimsick. "What goes around comes around, and I think you've paid for your actions."

Campbell, accompanied to court by his parents and grandparents, said nothing during the hearing. The case was heard in Nanaimo as it was more convenient for Campbell, whose lawyer is from that city.  

Comment:  I can't help but wonder at the logic that suggests "humiliation" is sufficient cause for granting an absolute discharge in an animal cruelty case.

This young man presumably chose to get drunk and then chose to punch an innocent animal in retribution for a bite. The fact the rabbit was probably terrorized by being chased down and was reacting in self-defense obviously did not cross his mind. Neither does it seem to have registered much on the horizon of the legal system.

Once again, we see the need for a strengthening and clarification of the provisions of the Criminal Code regarding animal cruelty. And once again we see the apparent disregard some U. Vic students have toward rabbits, evidently the animal group that is seen as the victim of choice for those desiring a little blood with their education.

What saddens me most is the fact there is a strong probability that this was a dumped former pet whose owners were callous or ill educated enough to not get their pet suitably spayed or neutered and who then threw it out when it became inconvenient. This rabbit was the victim of not one, but two crimes: dumping, and animal cruelty. And in both instances no-one has truly been held accountable.

Sue Collard
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC

Excerpt taken from The Martlet, October 5, 2004 An animal rights group at the University of Victoria is furious Nicholas Campbell, recently convicted of unnecessary cruelty to animals for his role in the death of a rabbit on campus, has received an absolute discharge because he wants to become a lawyer.

“We find the inability of the court to effectively deal with matters regarding animal cruelty to be disturbing,” said Shannon Elliot, president of the Student Animal Legal Defence Fund. “There is a clear connection between animal abuse and violence to humans. We must address all incidents of cruelty in order to encourage compassion in our society.”

Couple in 20s face fine for shooting rabbit

Sunday, November 28, 2004 Gerard Young, Times Colonist 

Saanich police now know who shot a rabbit that was found at UVic with an arrow through its ears but the shooters who planned to eat the animal now only face a fine.

Acting Sgt. Paul Cain said Saturday that witnesses led them to a man and woman in their early 20s who live in a residence near the university campus.  A bow and about 10 arrows were confiscated, as well as a slingshot. The pair, whom police are not identifying, co-operated, admitting to shooting a half dozen other rabbits.  Cain would not comment on their motive for shooting the rabbits.

The pair wanted to come forward when they saw media coverage about the wounded rabbit. However, they feared retribution from angry members of the public.  Police received four tips, two of which led them to the man and woman. He would not say whether they were UVic students but said they do not live on campus.

No charges will be laid under the Protection of Cruelty to Animals Act or the Criminal Code, he said. However, the pair have been issued a Saanich bylaw ticket for discharging a bow and arrow. The ticket is for $100.  "We didn't see an intent to harm the animal," Cain said, explaining someone must set out to be cruel to an animal to be charged under the act or Criminal Code.

The two did not shoot the rabbit for sport or pleasure, he said.  Victoria SPCA assistant manager Penny Stone said Cain told her the shooter's explanation for trying to kill the young male rabbit was "for food." "I would never have believed it," she said. "I was quite surprised."

Stone believes the rabbit escaped being dinner because it probably got away though she finds it incredible the animal could flee with a three-foot arrow through both ears.  Cain said the bow and arrows were not competitive quality and can be purchased at stores such as Wal-Mart.

The black rabbit recovered and someone was expected to adopt it after going to see it Saturday. "It's a nice, nice rabbit," Stone said. "It will be adopted by the end of the day."

University of Victoria campus security phoned Saanich police after finding the injured rabbit behind some campus student housing.  Stone partially blames the UVic student newspaper The Martlet for encouraging the killing of rabbits for food. The paper ran a story titled Bunnies for Dinner.

At least one Vancouver newspaper reported on The Martlet story, quoting students who said eating wild bunnies was better than meat from factory farms. They said they bait cages and put them on rabbit trails.

As well, UVic manager Tony James was quoted as saying in the Vancouver Province column that rabbits are the university's main pest problem and are easy to catch if someone wanted to eat them.  No one from the student newspaper could be reached on Saturday.

But The Martlet editor-in-chief Sean Sullivan was quoted in a Province in July: "We've had some pretty angry e-mails. One person threatened to go around and trash all the papers on campus." The student society said it didn't condone killing for food.  Cain said while the story may have put ideas in the heads of some, police were unlikely to speak to the paper's editors.

David Clode, UVic's executive director of student and ancillary services, had not heard from police but expects campus security to report whether a student is involved.  If a student living in a UVic residence was responsible he would likely be kicked out of the school housing as residents sign an agreement that includes a prohibition of weapons.

However, it is unlikely there would be any other sanctions, he said. As for The Martlet, Clode has no intention of talking to its editors about the story or impinge on its editorial freedom.  "I think we realize when The Martlet does publish stories that does give some people ideas," he said. "It publishes stories you would not expect to see in any other newspaper."  But, he added, the newspaper has smart staff who know what they are doing and it was extremely unlikely they were "advocating open warfare on rabbits."

March 24, 2005 Times Colonist staff 
Victoria, BC 

Three males were caught on a surveillance camera early Wednesday morning as they hung a dead rabbit outside a health-food restaurant at the University of Victoria. Graffiti denouncing vegetarians was also found at the eatery, located close to student residences at UVic's Cadboro Commons. University security gave the camera images to Saanich police, but they do not appear to be of sufficient quality to help with identification, said UVic spokeswoman Patty Pitts.  

The disturbing episode is the latest in a series of incidents involving rabbits at UVic, where a considerable population of the creatures lives among the brush and trees around the campus. A UVic rabbit was found with an arrow through its ears last fall. Saanich police eventually tracked down a man and a woman who admitted to shooting six or seven rabbits, likely for food. The pair escaped animal cruelty charges because of a lack of intent to inflict harm, but were fined $100 for contravening a municipal bylaw by discharging a bow and arrow.  

Last September, a second-year UVic student pleaded guilty to animal cruelty for an incident in February 2004 in which he punched a rabbit after catching it when he was drunk. The rabbit died from its injuries. The student was given an absolute discharge after expressing remorse for his actions.  

March 26, 2005 

To Whom It May Concern: 

Topic:  Trio seen hanging dead rabbit outside UVic health-food eatery 

I am outraged and concerned by yet another occurrence involving rabbit cruelty at U Vic.  Surely one of the major concerns of any forward thinking academic institution is to instill some civic virtues and moral graces, including respect and consideration for the many species that call the campus grounds home. 

In November 2004 in which a man and woman admitted killing several rabbits with a bow and arrow, any significant punishment for the crime was not administered.  David Clode, Executive Director of Student and Ancillary Services said the culprits were counselled "about the severity and inappropriateness of their actions" and a $100 fine was handed down for contravening a municipal bylaw.    

In February 2004 another vile act took place in which a student, drunk at the time, held down a rabbit and punched it repeatedly.  It was rushed to a veterinary hospital where it died from injuries "compatible with severe trauma."   I wonder at the logic that suggests "humiliation" is sufficient cause for granting an absolute discharge in an animal cruelty case. 

Now another deliberate death, this time further insult added, by hanging the body outside a health-food restaurant on campus.  This type of act cannot be sanctioned as freedom of expression.  The Martlet, the U Vic student newspaper had ran a previous story titled "Bunnies for Dinner" and at that time Clode said he had no intention of impinging "on its editorial freedom."  Maybe now is the time for rethinking.      

I would like to see more of a commitment from U Vic to implement and enforce stringent standards of behavior for its students and take a firmer stance on issues of animal cruelty. There also needs to be a strengthening and clarification of the provisions of the Criminal Code regarding this matter and for the legal system to take such manners seriously. 

Sue Collard
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC   

Response from David Clode, Executive director of Student and Ancillary Services for the University of Victoria to those who wrote:

Dear (Name),   

Thank you for your letter of November 29 to President Turpin regarding rabbits on the UVic campus. The President has asked me to respond to your concerns. 

UVic is home to a variety of wildlife—including squirrels, rabbits, birds, deer, and raccoons—and the university strives to provide an atmosphere where the animals are neither harmed nor harassed. Certainly, using a weapon against an animal is forbidden. UVic also doesn’t allow bows and arrows to be used, and neither does the municipality of Saanich, where the student residences are located.  

Like you, the UVic administration was very concerned to learn that a rabbit had been injured. Since the university first discovered the wounded rabbit, it has done everything possible to prevent another animal, or human, from being injured in this way. It caught the rabbit and made sure it received veterinary treatment from the SPCA. Then it assisted the Saanich police with their investigation, and counselled the culprits about the severity and inappropriateness of their actions. Both individuals have promised never to harm a rabbit at UVic again or to use a bow and arrow on campus. 

I hope this gives you a clearer picture of the university’s commitment to providing a safe environment for students, faculty, staff and wildlife.

Comment: Sadly, other ill-informed and insensitive dog 'owners' think it's great fun to have their pet chase and terrify the rabbits. It's both cruel and illegal:

BC Wildlife Act Current to February 13, 2013 

Dogs hunting game

78  A person commits an offence if the person causes or allows a dog to hunt or pursue

(a) wildlife or an endangered species or threatened species, or
(b) game, except in accordance with the regulations.

Read more: Animal Cruelty: Understanding the Problem

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