Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
City targets rabbit sales
Restrictions could ultimately be in place on the sale of rabbits in Vernon.
Council instructed staff Monday to investigate the feasibility of a bylaw banning the sale of rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered.
Coun. Buffy Baumbrough, who raised the issue, believes something needs to be done to keep a handle on the feral rabbit population.
“When you look at Kelowna and the issues they have had, it’s prudent to investigate the selling of unaltered rabbits,” she said.
In Kelowna, officials have had to launch a program in which feral rabbits are trapped and killed. But that move has been controversial and Baumbrough wants to avoid a similar scene in Vernon.
“It could have a positive situation before it gets out of hand,” she said of spaying and neutering rabbits.
Vernon’s feral rabbit colony began when some residents released domestic animals and didn’t care for them any more. Because of the species’ ability to breed, the population exploded (a female rabbit can have a litter every 28 days – with an average of four to six young per litter).
Coun. Bob Spiers is willing to lend his support to a proposed bylaw. “I suggested a year ago that stores shouldn’t be able to sell rabbits without them being spayed or neutered. It’s common sense,” he said.
Council ponders rabbit rules
Greater Vernon was once running wild with feral rabbits.
But thanks to the efforts of Vernon Rabbit Rescue over the last five years, rabbits no longer rule the streets and gardens of the community. “The feral rabbit population in Vernon is now virtually non-existent,” said Maurie Deaton, VRR founder.
The work VRR does is now being supported by Coldstream, which is considering a bylaw to ban the sale of unaltered rabbits and a bylaw to fine individuals who abandon pet rabbits into the community.
Even though Coldstream doesn’t have any pet stores in the district, Deaton says these steps are needed. “By implementing this ban Coldstream will be working pro-actively.”
The possibility of providing a grant to VRR will also be discussed at Coldstream’s upcoming budget deliberations.
Deaton and the volunteers with VRR provide free trapping for feral and abandoned rabbits in the region. The bunnies are then spayed or neutered, at VRR’s expense, and adopted to loving homes.
VRR relies on municipal grants and community donations to pay for spaying/neutering bunnies (at a cost of $100 each) and the costs of food and shelter for them while permanent homes are sought out.
“The cost of doing nothing would be much greater,” said Deaton, noting the damage rabbits can do both above and underground.
In Coldstream alone, VRR has trapped 12 rabbits since May 2008. One of those rabbits was pregnant and had a litter of nine, therefore a total 21 bunnies have been kept from running wild in Coldstream.
All of the rabbits were spayed and neutered, costing VRR $2,100. As a result, that is the amount VRR is requesting from Coldstream. “We are providing Coldstream residents a free service that no one else will provide to them,” said Deaton.
VRR’s request was recently turned down by the North Okanagan Regional District’s five electoral areas. Herman Halvorson, rural Enderby director, said the rural areas have their own rabbit control via coyotes.
Deaton is pleased to see Coldstream on board with VRR, and says such efforts will keep Greater Vernon from ending up in with the same problems Kelowna is facing.
Comment: A number of municipalities, big and small, are revising their bylaws to forbid the sales or adoption of unaltered rabbits, and to fine people for releasing their unwanted pet rabbits into the environment. It's the efforts of a few that are creating change. Rabbit Advocacy has been at the forefront of this action.