Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Bunnies go under the knife

April 16, 2006
By Jennifer Dyck Morning Star Staff, Vernon BC

Two years of trying to keep up with Vernon's multiplying stray rabbit population is receiving its first glimpse of help. Vernon's homeless bunny rescuer, Maurie Deaton, has finally been given a hand in controlling the population with some funding.

A donation of $750 from the Animal Advocates of BC, along with a reduced rate from Lake Country's Panorama Veterinary Services, allowed Deaton to load up 20 rabbits Monday to be spayed and/or neutered. Yet while the bounty of bunnies is Vernon's problem, the aid is all coming from out-of-town.

Judy Stone, Animal Advocates president, said it's unfortunate Deaton and her helpers have to look elsewhere for aid for a local situation. "They're the ones doing all the work and not getting any money for it." Deaton too would like to see more support given, adding that a good start is through education.

She warns all families considering bringing home a bunny as an Easter gift that these animals take just as much care and attention as cats or dogs. That includes having them spayed and neutered. "It is not a good pet to get for Easter." "So instead, I'm happy to loan them one for Easter."

Unfortunately, many owners discover rabbit responsibilities to be more than they anticipated and assume the animal will live a better life running free around town. But the city environment is no place for domestic rabbits, said Deaton, as their 10-year life span is reduced to two on the street. "Their survival rate is very poor in town, they get preyed on by owls, cats, dogs, and people," she said as people shoot and torture them. "Babies especially have a high mortality rate."

Not only that, but doing what rabbits do best, the more than two-year problem has continued to multiply around town, with females producing from four to 12 young as often as every month. "That's why we have such a big problem."

And now these former pets have become known as the neighbourhood pests to some residents. So since Deaton looked out her front window two years ago and saw 12 rabbits on her lawn, she has dedicated herself to help. "If you don't start taking care of them you'll have hundreds and hundreds and it will be an even bigger problem." "And the more we get off the street the less will die."

She asks anyone who can trap the strays, donate cages, food or funds or who would like to adopt one of the rabbits to call her at 558-7720. She also works to match rabbits with people through personalities, and assures that if the animal does not work out she will take it back.

Rabbit population rising out of control

Vernon Daily Courier staff Sunday, July 8, 2007 

Cute, cuddly and able to ravage gardens and flower beds in minutes, Vernon‘s wild rabbit population needs to be brought under control according to some local property owners. City council will be looking at a report today that examines the possibility of assisting property owners in controlling the rabbit population.

“We‘ve had a number of complaints from people up on East Hill and as far down as the Seaton school area,” said Clint Kanester, manager of bylaw enforcement. “It‘s periodic. Some people are more accepting than others; obviously people with gardens get a bit more upset.” Kanester said that although rabbits grazing in flower beds is a nuisance, there is the potential for more serious problems.

“Once you get these big warrens, there is the possibility that diseases will develop. Viruses that can decimate the rabbit population can be picked up by pets as well.” It is believed that the rabbit problem began more than a decade ago when someone released their pet rabbits near Seaton school.

“It was probably some tenant that was moving or got kicked out and instead of having to deal with them, they let them loose. The rabbits aren‘t indigenous wildlife or anything,” said Kanester.

Presently, the only option for residents plagued by the creatures is to call a private trapper or pest control. The report to city council suggests that council approve a budget of $2,000 to provide a rabbit control service.

However, with gardens in full bloom, keeping rabbit numbers down is easier said than done. “The rabbits are a lot harder to catch during summer because there is so much food around for them,” said Kanester. He added that the city would likely look at setting traps during the winter when food is more scarce and trapping becomes easier. “We may not be able to stop the population but that‘s not the point. The point is to keep on top of things and prevent it from growing,” said Kanester.

The city already provides skunk and crow control, a service which costs taxpayers $2,700 a year. 

Council approves rabbit control cash

Vernon Daily Courier Staff August 14, 2007 

City council will be supporting an effort to control the local rabbit population, but it will not go as far as asking pet stores to stop selling the fluffy animals. Council passed a staff recommendation that the city provide a one-time grant of $2,000 to allow for the wild rabbits to be spayed or neutered.

An ad-hoc committee will be formed involving the SPCA, Greater Vernon Services, the humane society and other pertinent agencies.

Coun. Barry Beardsell said the SPCA and regional district need to be in on the plan. Beardsell pointed out The Responsible Animal Care Society (TRACS) manages to provide funds to have animals spayed or neutered with “no support at all” and held them up as an example to those wanting money to control the rabbit population.

Clint Kanester, head of the bylaw department, said he spoke with the Ministry of Environment and the rabbits are considered an invasive species and a professional is needed to catch them using either leg hold or live traps. Council agreed to provide the one-time grant and to look into the matter further.

Comment:  Once again it's a small group of compassionate and forward-thinking activists who are working to initiate change.  This always presents a challenge, as government agencies, municipalities, and the SPCA are not proactive in prevention.  The City of Vernon could easily have passed legislation stopping the sale and adoption of unaltered rabbits, but chose not to.  As to rabbits spreading disease, as Clint Kanester suggests, this is highly unlikely and designed to create fear among the public.  Rabbits may succumb to injury or may become victims of other human activity, something we should all be clear about.  HUMANS ARE ALWAYS THE PROBLEM.  As to the ad-hoc committee that was set up, the SPCA never showed up for the few meetings that took place.  Meanwhile, unpaid and dedicated individuals, press forward on behalf of all those with no voice.  Please take the time to lend your support to all those activists helping rabbits, and  to those who are working to stop cruelty and neglect.  We need legislation to protect the innocent.

November 14, 2008 

To: North Okanagan Regional District
From: Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC
Re: Vernon Rabbit Rescue's Request for Funding

Dear Representatives: 

The Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC is writing in support of Vernon Rabbit Rescue's request for funding for the spay and neuter and shelter of feral domestic rabbits abandoned in and around the City of Vernon.  Maurie Deaton and a small group of volunteers have been successfully working in the community to help discarded pet rabbits find new homes or sanctuary for about five years now.  

Acknowledging that the source of unwanted rabbits is the breeding and selling of unaltered baby bunnies through pet stores, 4-H Clubs and even the SPCA, rabbit advocates and the concerned public are requesting municipalities to enact bylaws that would prohibit the sale of unsterilized bunnies.  Proactive measures are not only less costly than reactive ones, they would also help prevent situations like the one in Kelowna, which has garnered an international outcry condemning Council's decision to have the homeless rabbits exterminated.  

The City of Vernon has recognized the success of Maurie's endeavor in humanely catching, sterilizing, and rehoming the many rabbits that would otherwise be left to procreate and multiply, by earlier this year giving her a grant of $5,000 to her truly worthwhile work benefiting both rabbits and community.   

We respectfully ask that the North Okanagan Regional District do the same.  A collaborative effort yields positive results. 


Carmina Gooch, President
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC
North Vancouver, BC

District denies feral rabbit funding

Richard Rolke - Vernon Morning Star
February 06, 2009 4:00 PM

Efforts to control feral rabbits will have to get along without financial support from rural residents. The North Okanagan Regional District has shot down a request from Rabbit Rescue for $5,000 from the five electoral areas. “We don’t have any rabbits. The coyotes keep eating them,” said Herman Halvorson, rural Enderby director. “I haven’t seen a rabbit in Grindrod in ages.”

The funds would have helped the Vernon-based volunteer group live trap rabbits, spay or neuter the animals and then find them homes.

Feral rabbits originate from domestic rabbits that pet owners have abandoned, and Halvorson believes that is another reason why rural residents should not contribute funds. “We don’t have any pet stores in our area so it’s not a problem,” he said.

Similar views come from Cliff Kanester, BX-Swan Lake alternate director. “We have no rabbit problem out here,” he said. “There are enough coyotes, dogs and raccoons around that there isn’t a rabbit within 40 miles of my place.”

Maurie Deaton, founder of Rabbit Rescue, isn’t surprised that her request has been turned down by rural politicians. “We have caught some bunnies out there but they don’t have many,” she said.

Deaton’s main focus is to get financial support from local municipalities because many of them have pet stores and that appears to be where most rabbits live. “The biggest area with a problem has been Coldstream and the other is Spallumcheen,” she said. It can cost $2,000 a month to spay and neuter 20 rabbits and Deaton says that is a considerable burden for volunteers to come up with.

Deaton also insists that politicians and residents need to understand how quickly the rabbit population can get out of hand. “In six months, two bunnies can become 100 and then those 100 breed,” she said. The rabbits not only can destroy plants and crops as they look for food, but their digging can cause damage to yards and homes.

One jurisdiction that won’t be hit up for cash is the City of Vernon, which provided $5,000 in 2008. “Now after their support and our trapping efforts, we do not have much of a feral rabbit problem in the city,” said Deaton.

Rabbit Rescue is also offering to provide temporary housing to some rabbits from Kelowna, until they can be permanently adopted by Warren Peace Bunny Sanctuary in Oyama. “Obviously, we have enough bunnies here to find homes for, so this is the most we can do to help them,” said Deaton. “However, we really don’t want to see any more of their bunnies killed, so we are offering these options to (Kelowna) council and hope they will accept our partnership.”

Sales of unaltered rabbits targeted by Vernon & Coldstream

More on the Vernon rabbits

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