Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


UVic management plan establishes rabbit-free and rabbit-control areas 

June 28, 2010 UVic’s widely anticipated Feral Rabbit Management Plan was unveiled today.

Media Release: The University of Victoria’s new long-term Feral Rabbit Management Plan establishes rabbit-free zones on campus and an area where a sustainable population of feral rabbits can remain.

The areas outside of Ring Road will be designated as rabbit-free zones. Feral rabbits will be removed from those areas over the next year through a combination of humane trapping/euthanasia and community-arranged sterilization and relocation to Ministry of Environment-authorized facilities that community organizations can arrange.

A rabbit control zone will be established within Ring Road and divided into four quadrants, with each quadrant supporting a population of about 50 feral rabbits. It is likely rabbits will have to be removed from this area as well to reduce the population to the proposed level.

“We will direct our initial attention to the rabbit free zones to remove the feral rabbit population in those areas that are adjacent to our neighbours and where property damage and safety hazards are greatest,” says Tom Smith, UVic’s executive director of facilities management.

“In advance of the plan’s release, we contacted community organizations and individuals who had previously indicated that they might be able to provide sanctuary space or other solutions for relocating the rabbits from these zones. We have already been approached by one Ministry of Environment-authorized facility willing to take 20 rabbits.

“In the coming weeks we will assess the capacity of interested organizations to accept specific numbers of sterilized rabbits and their ability to obtain the necessary permits to do so. UVic has developed requirements to help community members and organizations with sanctioned facilities to relocate rabbits. We have also posted information about the Ministry of Environment application process on our rabbit information website at www.uvic.ca/rabbits.”

The plan also introduces the option to incorporate a trap/sterilize/release or vasectomy option into the management program for the rabbit-control zone when the focus shifts to that part of campus in 2011.

“UVic will entertain proposals from the public and on-campus volunteers for assistance with the rabbit-control zone and for the establishment of feeding stations,” says Smith. “If no individual volunteers or organizations come forward at that time, the university will have to reassess its approach to managing the rabbit control area.”

Read the feral rabbit management plan. 

UVic will remove 1,200+ feral rabbits from campus 

By Kyle Slavin - Saanich News June 28, 2010 

The University of Victoria is looking to get rid of at least 1,200 feral rabbits on campus, according to a rabbit management plan released Monday. 

Tom Smith, UVic’s executive director of facilities management, said the current population – estimated at anywhere between 1,400 and 1,600 – is so out of control that the school now aims to reduce their population to a manageable 200. “That is a starting point. It’s about half of what’s there right now inside Ring Road,” he said. 

The 200 rabbits kept on campus will be separated into four rabbit-control zones of about 50 each that make up the inside of Ring Road. Rabbits will no longer be allowed outside Ring Road. 

The school is looking to get the rabbits relocated, rather than killed, Smith said, but the onus is now on the public to help in that process. “We’re giving them an opportunity to go through the permitting process and arrange with vets to spay and neuter,” he said. 

The university has received about 10 inquiries into saving the rabbits, Smith added, but UVic has set a deadline of late July to determine how many may be removed from campus in this fashion. 

Susan Vickery, a rabbit supporter with the Earth Animal Humane Education and Rescue Society is one of those individuals hoping to find homes for the animals off campus. “This is a window of opportunity for people who are concerned about these animals to show they care about them,” she said. “We need to diffuse some of the crazy energy and redirect it into a real project.” 

Vickery is hoping to see members of the community step forward offering property, building materials, and veterinary support to save as many rabbits as possible. “Those supports have to be in place before we take on the responsibility of taking rabbits off campus.” 

A cull of leftover rabbits, save for 200, will start this summer. It will begin in rabbit-free zones outside of Ring Road and continue through next year, when the rabbit-control zones inside Ring Road start being managed. UVic will monitor the numbers inside Ring Road and is looking to implement a sterilization program to keep the population manageable. 

Three nearby neighbourhood associations came forward last week in support of UVic’s plan to cull the rabbits.  “There are obvious health and safety concerns,” said Mike Wilmut of the North Henderson residents’ association. That group, along with Gordon Head and Cadboro Bay residents associations, said the rabbit population has now expanded into their neighbourhoods. 

In May, UVic announced it had been conducting a selective cull near the sports fields. In total, 104 rabbits were trapped on site and transported to a veterinary clinic for euthanizing.

Smith said the school will employ alternative humane methods to kill the rabbits this time around, but would not elaborate. He did say the method is deemed acceptable by the American Medical Veterinary Association. 

According to the AMVA’s guidelines on euthanasia, acceptable methods of killing rabbits include barbiturates, inhalant anesthetics, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and potassium chloride, in conjunction with general anesthesia. 

The university is in a position now where it has to get rid of a large number of rabbits who are damaging the property, Smith said. “I think we should’ve done a better job of anticipating the increases. The growth curve just got away from us … But it’s not a core business of a university to be managing rabbits.” 

Comment: Many individuals and groups are working hard to help the rabbits and move them to sanctuary. We need community support! To see how you can get involved or to make a donation please visit:  www.earthanimalrights.org

UVic has made it abundantly clear that the deadline for removing rabbits is the end of July and that there is no potential for an extension of time. Some pictures of our recent visit:


Help the UVic Rabbits and the UVic Rabbit Fund http://uvicrabbits.blogspot.com has been created to spread more awareness about the University of Victoria’s decision to kill the campus rabbits, former pets and their offspring who were thoughtlessly abandoned once they became unwanted. 

University of Victoria can deal with feral rabbits without killing them 

Commentary By Ryan Nayler July 2, 2010 straight.com   

The University of Victoria’s decision to “cull” 1,200 to 1,400 rabbits on campus is an ill-advised, inhumane solution to a problem that the university is largely to blame for in the first place. For over 20 years, the university has allowed the rabbit population to reach the proportions they are now at, without taking responsible, non-lethal measures to keep the population in check.  

A pilot trap-neuter-release project was launched last year in an attempt to reduce the rabbit population, a project that the university claims was a failure. In reality, the project was abandoned when permits could not be immediately obtained from the B.C. Ministry of Environment allowing the feral rabbits to be housed in wildlife sanctuaries. The ministry has made exemptions in such cases in the past, such as allowing the feral rabbits from the city of Kelowna to be adopted out to private homes by relaxing permitting restrictions. The university did not make any efforts to resolve these technicalities, however, nor did it grant other interested parties the time in which to do so. UVic instead insisted that immediate action must be taken (i.e. lethal population control), as if there was now some pressing sense of urgency that did not exist for the last 20 years.

To justify the extreme measures taken, the university began to cite damage to trees and sports fields, and the potential for injury by tripping in rabbit holes (i.e. warrens), as legitimate cause for killing the rabbits. While evidence of digging can be found throughout the campus, the university has not taken preventative steps to prevent the alleged $100,000 damaged caused by the rabbits. Wire mesh around trees, fencing and concrete around sports fields, motion-activated sprinklers in designated “rabbit-free” zones, and the use of non-toxic deterrents could greatly reduce the amount of damage caused.

I recently visited the campus to voice my opposition to the cull, and I was astounded by the exaggerations and falsehoods perpetuated through local media in the region. The campus was not littered with droppings as commonly alleged, and while there were many rabbits, they were fairly dispersed throughout the campus, and not impeding anyone’s movement or interfering with campus life in any visible way. I also expected to find a campus that resembled a desert wasteland, barren of grass, and covered with holes. In reality, the campus boasted acres of thick, green turf, with some scarcely-noticeable holes, usually tucked away out of sight.

Relative to the campus size, the amount of rabbits appeared roughly proportional to the number of squirrels I am used to seeing on the University of Toronto campus. Although squirrels have been known to build nests in eaves troughs and other unwanted places, there has not been any discussion of a mass squirrel extermination to my knowledge. Wildlife usually exists on private property, and property owners are expected to learn to peacefully coexist with the wildlife, or to find humane means of relocating them. UVic refuses to treat the rabbits as they would other wildlife, because they were former pets, and their “feral” status does not constitute being wildlife in every legal sense.

This is where a change in legislation, and patience along with a commitment to finding a non-lethal solution on the part of the university, is required. On June 28, the university released its long-anticipated Feral Rabbit Management Plan, which essentially states that the university will kill up to 1,400 rabbits if homes are not found for them by the end of July. Under current regulations, these feral rabbits can only be released to approved wildlife sanctuaries and individuals who have applied for and received the required permit from the B.C. Ministry of the Environment.

An appropriate amendment needs to be made to the B.C. Wildlife Act, making provisions for the simplified adoption of non-native feral rabbits, in the situation of a mass overpopulation. To minimize the necessity of such emergency-based adoption programs, the laws proposed by the Rabbit Advocacy Group of B.C. must also be introduced, and the private member’s bill by Saanich South MLA Lana Popham passed. These would ban the sale of pet rabbits, at least those which have not been spayed or neutered.

This situation can be dealt with in a non-lethal manner, as has been done with feral rabbit colonies at Long Beach City College in California and in the cities of Kelowna, Vernon, and Calgary. Concerned citizens are advised to encourage the university to follow these non-lethal (humane) models of wildlife control, rather than distinguishing itself as a perpetrator of unnecessary cruelty to animals. Local veterinarians have offered to perform free vasectomies on all of the rabbits on campus, and community members have come forth and volunteered their assistance in the trapping, sterilization and re-housing of the rabbits. This would substantially reduce the costs incurred by the university to manage the population, since they will have to contract the trapping out to private companies, and pay for the veterinary costs of euthanasia if they continue with lethal measures as intended.

The rabbits are not at fault for having been abandoned on campus by negligent caregivers, and they should therefore not be denied a chance at life because they are deemed an inconvenience to some members of the university. On-line discussions, and physical observations of people’s attitudes toward the rabbits on campus, reveal that there is an equal or greater number of people who are delighted by the rabbits’ presence and find their presence to be a unique aspect of campus life. (end)

July 5, 2010 Photos depicting so-called rabbit damage, such as bark being stripped off trees, not only calls into question UVic’s questionable use of tactics to defend its position, but its lack of adequate action to protect the trees and shrubbery from being destroyed. If food is plentiful, and University spokespersons claim it is, partly because people are feeding them, then the rabbits will not be devouring trees. Face the facts; the green space is rapidly being depleted to further accommodate the human species; damn the other species who currently live on campus and who are now being exterminated or pushed out of existence.

Those few wielding the power at UVic have created a tense and divisive situation among the staff, students, faculty, the public, animal advocates, and anyone concerned with justice, welfare, oppression, and the rights of the rabbits. The BC SPCA has received letters from the public asking that it be more vocal on this subject.

An excerpt from Carmina Gooch’s recent e-mail: According to the BC SPCA Feral Rabbit Position Statement of 2008: Any euthanasia procedures must make seasonal considerations to prevent the orphaning of young in warrens and must take place outside of active birthing season.

While rabbits are prolific breeders and reproduce year round, the “active birthing season” is about 9 months, from February until October.

Tom Smith, UVic Facilities Management says that plans to eradicate the rabbits will begin at the end of July in rabbit-free zones outside of Ring Road.

This should be of great concern to the BC SPCA. As an agency ‘speaking’ and advocating for all animals, it is your duty to step up and show leadership on this issue. Isn’t tearing babies from their mothers after birth inhumane and cruel?  How many babies were orphaned and left to die of starvation in their warrens? 

Preventing animal cruelty and promoting animal welfare is the mandate of the SPCA. These rabbits need to be protected. There are many people working on non-lethal solutions, solutions that take time. 

Over the last few days, volunteers canvassed neighbours living around the University, garnering signatures supporting non-lethal solutions for the rabbits. Previous online petitions, as well as another one that anti-fur activists collected while demonstrating in front of Snowflake Furs in Vancouver, have been presented to UVic officials. There have been a number of inter-related actions that have challenged and questioned our moral duty toward other creatures. Regardless of arbitrary rules or legislation, if people feel strongly about a ‘wrong’ they will feel equally obligated to disobey it.  

UVic has been under intense scrutiny as it tries to find ways to sidestep responsibility for the rabbits’ welfare. Local mainstream media, notably the Times Colonist has been extremely biased in its articles, op-ed pieces, and coverage on this issue. There has been an absence of fairness and accuracy. Thankfully there are alternate sources of information nowadays, due to the Internet and social networking sites.  

Today, L Hut was scheduled to be demolished, the first of the army huts. Trappers were on hand capturing rabbits and they will be back tonight. Concerned individuals who have been monitoring and patrolling campus will continue to be on hand to observe and count. EARS has reached an agreement with the University to take those rabbits that are caught today and tomorrow. Arrangements have been made to get them sterilized and to sanctuary, where they will be well taken care of.

Update: Support for the UVic Feral Rabbit Rescue has been tremendous. Despite all the University’s considerable requirements before releasing any rabbits and the MoE’s lengthy permit application process, progress is being made. Some people are still thoughtlessly removing UVic rabbits into unsuitable environments, but for the most part, there is optimism that many of the rabbits will be placed into sanctuary. On July 12th, the Fur-Bearer Defenders announced that it will pledge up to $50,000 to save the UVic rabbits. There are many individuals and groups working hard at rehoming the rabbits but the cost of spaying and neutering is great. FBD is hopeful its contribution will eliminate some of the burden and ensure that all of the rabbits will receive the medical attention they deserve. All donations, whatever the amount, are greatly appreciated. Carmina Gooch, rabbitadbc@shaw.ca  is the contact person in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland. If you are living on Vancouver Island or elsewhere, feel free to contact Susan Vickery susanvickery7@gmail.com  or Jordan Reichert jordanreichert@hotmail.com 

Several sanctuary homes have been secured. Capturing of the rabbits will be carried out by the University during the first three weeks of August. Tom Smith, Director of Facilities Management, said UVic is keeping track of individuals going through the process of getting permits and licences to receive rabbits. Mr. Smith has said he will share the information with FBD. The $50,000 donation from FBD will greatly benefit the rabbits and all those who provide MoE approved sanctuary. Why can’t UVic be so generous? To date, officials have been stalwart in actions to thwart the efforts of everybody trying to take responsible, humane, and non-lethal measures to give these rabbits a second chance. It seems as though the University has been feeling the heat and now wants to appear cooperative. Removal of feral rabbits from the rabbit-free zones will continue into next year. After that, the focus will shift to the proposed rabbit-control zone in the interior of campus, where it is expected that about 200 rabbits will be managed. Mr. Smith said it is also likely that the University will initially have to reduce the population to the proposed level. While donations and services to support the rabbits is overwhelming, property for MoE-approved sanctuaries is urgently required.    

Read more in the Driftwood

July 25, 2010 People from near and far have come forward to help ensure a safe and secure future for the UVic rabbits.  Georganne Lenham, licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and founder and CEO of Wild Rose Rescue Ranch in the Tyler area of Texas, said she knew she had to help. She said there are no restrictions on importing domestic rabbits. However, as it stands now, the B.C. Environment Ministry considers European domestic rabbits ‘wildlife’ under the Wildlife Act, and has not finalized permit applications. Closer to home, Wendy Huntbatch, co- founder of the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs, on Vancouver Island, has agreed to take several hundred of the bunnies. We had the pleasure of meeting her, and her birds recently. Meanwhile, EARS has received over $24,000 in donations, and has 16 veterinarians committed to performing sterilizations. Fur-Bearer Defenders has pledged $50,000 for the surgeries.  Building supply and feed stores are also on board. Thank you, everybody, for your generosity!   

July 28, 2010: Liberation BC’s vegan bake sale fundraiser netted just over $7,300. 3G Vegetarian donated 20% of dinner sales and an individual who was unable to attend, gave $1,000. This is outstanding - what a great effort to save the UVic rabbits!

Community rallies to save UVic bunnies

Temporary injunction granted to stop UVic rabbit kill

Read more on the UVic rabbits on our Pet Shops/Rabbits/Legislation page