Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Victoria city council looks at preventing spread of feral rabbits in parks 

Amended animal-control law would put responsibilities on owners
December 10, 2009 By Bill Cleverley, Canwest News Service (Vancouver Sun)  

Victoria wants to ensure city parks and green spaces don’t become the next dumping ground for feral rabbits.

City council is considering amendments to the animal-control law that would prohibit anyone from keeping a rabbit except in secure enclosed structures, prohibit the sale or giving away of rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered, and require that a property owner remove or modify any warren on their property. Another proposal could prohibit feeding any animal or fowl in a city park or public space.

“The recommendation came from the SPCA,” said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, who is suggesting the amendments. “Currently we don’t have an issue with feral rabbits such as UVic does, but what the SPCA has brought forward is some preventative measures we can have so we don’t develop a rabbit problem.” The recommendations were endorsed by the city’s corporate services committee Thursday.

Over the years, the University of Victoria has become overrun with feral rabbits, which not only graze on lawns but burrow and leave potentially infectious droppings on playing fields, posing a danger to athletes.

The university has launched a public-awareness campaign to deter people from abandoning pet rabbits, planted species that don’t make for good nesting or eating. UVic formed a task force with neighbouring residents to tackle the problem and even built a $10,000 fence around Finnerty Gardens to protect its prize-winning rhododendrons. And yet the number of rabbits keeps growing. It’s a problem the city should well try to avoid, said Thornton-Joe.

“It’s also an animal welfare issue. People get rabbits when they’re cute and small and cuddly, and when they become larger they decide they don’t want the rabbit any more and they discard it in any green area, which is very stressful for the rabbit. So it’s looking after the welfare of the rabbits, but also preventative so we don’t develop a feral rabbit situation.”

Thornton-Joe is also recommending the city include an animal welfare section in its animal-control bylaw. Such a section might address issues such as people leaving dogs in cars on hot summer days.

Thornton-Joe’s suggestions have sparked wider review of the city’s animal-control bylaw. City staff would like to see other changes to the bylaw concerning issues such as keeping chickens, said Rob Woodland, director regulatory and legislative services. “It would be to specify the number of chickens that could be kept and council would determine that number. But there is no number in the bylaw at this point,” Woodland said, adding the bylaw could also be tightened up in areas surrounding the siting of chicken coops.

Victoria considers mandatory rabbit sterilization

December 11, 2009 By Roszan Holmen - Victoria News

New measures to stem the spread of feral rabbits has the first nod of approval from the City of Victoria. "Up until now there's been a lot of upset and a lot of media but not a lot of actual planning (by local governments)," said Erika Paul, animal control officer for the local branch of the B.C. SPCA. Wild rabbits have been popping up at the Victoria General Hospital and at Beacon Hill Park.

To curb the spread, Paul made several recommendations to councils in Victoria, Oak Bay and View Royal, based on a template adopted from Kelowna. Once several municipalities sign on, she hopes to approach Saanich, a community recognized as having the most serious rabbit problem, stemming from the University of Victoria campus.

Under Paul's recommendations, rabbits would have to be spayed or neutered before being sold or given away. "If they're not available to buy easily ... if they are a larger financial investment then there's not going to be the impulsive (decision to) go to the local pet store and spend the $20," Paul said.

Oak Bay council chose not to adopt the bylaw because there are no pet stores in the municipality.

Last month, Esquimalt opted against a similar recommendation to mandate the sterilization of cats. Despite the fact that Central and North Saanich have already adopted the bylaw, Esquimalt council questioned its jurisdiction, deferring instead to the Capital Regional District.

Other recommendations by Paul include prohibiting people from feeding rabbits in public places, and requiring rabbit owners to keep their pets enclosed.

Kelowna went one step further. Suffering from an out-of-control rabbit population, it ordered the cull of 2,000 rabbits last year. The method, however, sparked outcry when witnesses reported that exterminators were stomping on rabbits' heads after failing to kill them with guns, according to local media.

The University of Victoria is also considering a cull, but only if all other means fail. In September, the institution issued a proposal for a pilot project to trap, neuter and adopt 150 wild rabbits.

On Thursday, Victoria's Corporate Services Committee endorsed Paul's recommendations. Next, council will review the issue.

December 12, 2009 The Times Colonist published a letter from Victoria resident, P.M. Clarke, that contained misinformation about rabbits.  The newspaper is anti-rabbit with previous editorial positions supporting the killing of the UVic rabbits.  In this instance, the attention-getting title read, “Rabbit solution is simple: Just kill them."  Letter excerpt:

Substitute the word rat for rabbit -- both are rodents -- and consider the public outrage that would result if the campus was being overrun by rats. I guarantee nobody would be screaming about cruelty if they were shot, poisoned or trapped. 

We have enough real problems to deal with, like providing decent shelter for homeless people, and shouldn't be wasting time on rodents. Just get on with it. 

The Times Colonist has received recent correspondence not only from us, but from others, advising that rabbits are lagomorphs, so it would appear that it was intentional to not correct "rodent" to read "lagomorph."  That way the negative connotation of rabbits as "vermin" could be presented to an uninformed public.   

Clarke also acknowledged that "we do not have a rabbit problem, we have a people problem."  Carmina Gooch, RAG BC sent this e-mail to the TC: 

December 12, 2009 

Times Colonist Editor, 

I would like to correct the misinformation in P.M. Clarke's letter asserting that rabbits are rodents.  This is not true. Definition: Lagomorphs are herbivorous mammals such as rabbits, hares, and pikas, in the order Lagomorpha. 

As to thinking people wouldn't care about cruelty if it were rats on campus, I know many who regard cruelty as cruelty, regardless of species. And talking of word replacement, what if "people" for "rabbit" were substituted and the title read, People Solution is simple: Just kill them.  After all, if it's a people problem, not a rabbit problem, why not get at the root source?  Should be easy. 

Letter published! Rabbits are not rodents

cruelty is cruelty

Carmina Gooch, Times Colonist (Victoria)
Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A recent letter asserted that rabbits are rodents. This is not true.

Herbivorous mammals such as rabbits, hares and pikas are lagomorphs, in the order lagomorpha.

As to the claim that thinking people wouldn't care about cruelty if it were rats on campus, I know many who regard cruelty as cruelty, regardless of species.

And talking of word replacement, what if "people" for "rabbit" were substituted and the title read, "People solution is simple: Just kill them." After all, if it's a people problem, not a rabbit problem, why not get at the root source? Should be easy.

Carmina Gooch, North Vancouver

A tongue-in-cheek online comment:

Skip December 11, 2009 - 4:39 PM

Quit wasting money on the homeless.  There are far too many of them.  Maybe they could be fed to the rabbits--oh, I guess not, rabbits are herbivores and no, they're not rodents.  Get it right!

April 2010  Please support the City of Victoria in efforts to pass bylaws banning the sale of rabbits in pet stores.  However,  take note that the University of Victoria rests in the municipalities of Saanich and Oak Bay, so letters and phone calls to those officials are also urgently needed. 

Call to ban fertile-rabbit sales 

By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist April 28, 2010

Some B.C. municipalities already ban selling unsterilized rabbits.

A rare point of agreement in Greater Victoria's acrimonious rabbit wars is that a ban on selling unsterilized animals would be an effective way to stem the continuing abandonment of unwanted pets.

The University of Victoria, which is struggling to control a feral rabbit population that has ballooned to up to 2,000 animals, would like to see a legislated ban -- as would the B.C. SPCA, other animal-protection groups and some municipalities.

Other communities have already taken that step: Kelowna, which initially tackled a rabbit problem with a cull, and then moved to trapping and sterilization, now has a ban on selling unsterilized rabbits, while Richmond city council has voted unanimously to ban the sale of rabbits in pet stores.

However, things in Greater Victoria, with its patchwork of 13 municipalities, are never that simple. The Capital Regional District doesn't have the power to control rabbit sales, and the university campus straddles two municipalities -- Oak Bay and Saanich.

"The only way it could happen on a region-wide basis is for municipalities such as Saanich and Oak Bay to adopt regulations and then write to surrounding jurisdictions to see if they would do the same," said CRD chairman and Victoria councillor Geoff Young.

Young agrees the issue of abandoned pets is a concern and said it would be reasonable to limit sales of rabbits, provided official breeders are protected. Victoria plans to review its animal-control bylaw in June, and the bunny issue has already been raised.

Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton said his municipality would consider a bylaw if a proposal was brought forward by UVic or the SPCA. "I am sure council would look at anything to help our neighbours. ... The university has a major problem on its hands," Causton said.

However, Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard is not so sure it's municipalities' role to help fix a problem at the university. "If UVic wants to make that request, we would review it and we would get legal advice," he said. "But, on a much broader view, when people ask us to do things to restrict other people's freedom or rights, we usually shy away if other solutions are available."

The university is developing a long-term strategy to deal with the bunnies, which have become a serious concern as they chew and dig their way through campus. UVic officials say the plan will have to include a cull. However they point to a ban on sales as a way of preventing the bunny boom from happening again, as most of the rabbits are offspring from abandoned pets.

The B.C. SPCA would like all municipalities to forbid the sale of unsterilized animals, with exceptions for legitimate breeders or organizations such as 4H clubs. The Victoria SPCA usually has at least 40 rabbits up for adoption -- all spayed or neutered -- and it's estimated at least 200 to 300 a month are waiting for adoption at SPCA shelters throughout B.C.

Comment: The District of North Vancouver Pet Shop Regulation Bylaw is being considered for amendment to prevent the sale of intact rabbits from pet shops on Monday, May 3, 2010.  It’s expected to be passed.   In Port Moody, staff are preparing a bylaw amendment to ban bunny sales in local stores. The city will also send a letter on the matter to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

May 3, 2010 The District bylaw received unanimous support.  Many people have contacted municipal officials urging them to enact similar regulations.  Partial reply to Ms Gooch's e-mail regarding pet shop regulations for rabbits and the UVic situation:  

Your concerns regarding rabbits are acknowledged, some of which were recently addressed by Council in an amendment to Oak Bay’s Animal Control Bylaw that now prohibits the feeding of rabbits on public and private property as well as prohibiting the releasing or abandoning of rabbits. Inasmuch as there are no pet stores within Oak Bay, Council felt that regulations in regard to the sale of rabbits were not warranted at this time.

May 14, 2010 Saanich South MLA Lana Popham is putting the finishing touches on a private member’s bill she hopes to introduce next week that would ban the sale of unsterilized rabbits in B.C. 

Although private member’s bills almost never become law, Popham is optimistic, since some Liberals have said they will support her bill. “It’s such a timely issue and it’s non-partisan. (Times Colonist)

July 9, 2010 Councillor Judy Brownoff will next week put forward a motion to council that staff look at amending bylaws or putting restrictions on business licences for pet stores so that rabbits aren’t sold without being sterilized first. 

She tells the Saanich News that “If you’re going to buy a bunny, it has to be fixed,” she said. “It’s not just a UVic problem anymore. UVic has inherited peoples’ unwanted pets, and now it’s an issue we all have to address.” Please, everybody, take the time to phone or write Saanich Mayor Leonard and Councillors.

Victoria to rein in animal care with review of control bylaw 

July 21, 2010 Bill Cleverley - Times Colonist  

Everything from limiting the number of cats allowed in a household to a ban on leaving dogs in cars in the summer heat will be up for debate by Victoria councillors this week as part of a sweeping revamp of its animal control bylaw.

Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe, an animal rights advocate, called for quick action, noting there hasn't been a comprehensive review of the bylaw since 1992.

"It makes it easier for animal control to respond to the situation and not have to wait until an animal is in dire stress before they can react," she said. Among other things, she'd like to see regulations prohibiting people from exercising their dogs while riding their bikes.

Mayor Dean Fortin said council should consider barring the sale of unsterilized rabbits, along with mandatory cat sterilization. "I think animal overpopulation is something that's in the public's mind and one within the region that we need to deal with collectively." In January, council asked staff to review the bylaw and suggest amendments. Among recommendations:

- Prohibit leaving an animal unattended in an enclosed space without sufficient ventilation.
- Impose requirements for secure transport of animals.
- Prohibit tying an animal by a rope or a chain that is directly tied around its neck or to a choke collar.
- Require secure enclosures for outdoor rabbits and chickens. 

Amendments being considered -- subject to more research -- would: 

- Prohibit exercising dogs while operating a vehicle or riding a bicycle.
- Prohibit keeping a dog on a traffic island.
- Limit the number of cats or rabbits that can be kept in one household.
- Require cat identification.
- Require pet stores to provide disclosure of the origin and medical history of animals to purchasers.

City staff are also recommending rules for keeping bees and chickens.

August 5, 2010 Extensive revisions to Victoria’s animal control bylaw are well underway. There has been considerable discussion on rabbits, with the Times Colonist reporting:   

Mayor Dean Fortin wondered whether the Capital Regional District might be able to expedite a model bylaw to deal with overpopulation of rabbits, rather than have several municipalities attempt to do the same thing independently. But Coun. Geoff Young, who is also CRD chairman, said it's not the region's role -- nor does it have the staff to write such bylaws.

Dealing with the overpopulation is really an issue of animal welfare, Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe recently told fellow councillors, saying the bylaw overhaul is an opportunity for the municipality to be proactive. “These are not wild animals to start off with. Then they are abandoned because they are no longer cute animals. I see that section dealing with animal overpopulation as necessary to deal with as animal welfare," Thornton-Joe said.

Rabbit Advocacy supports a ban on the selling unsterilized rabbits. We have been asking municipalities to take action on this matter for years.

January 15, 2011 City listens to breeders and pet industry 

It’s unfortunate and shameful that the City of Victoria has chosen to listen to those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of the rabbit breeding and selling industry, rather than bringing forward progressive legislation to reflect today’s society. The long-awaited Governance Committee’s report, Amendments to the Animal Control Bylaw, dated January 13, 2011, presented for Council adoption, will not include a ban on sales of rabbits in pet stores nor will it mandate disclosure of the origin of the animal to purchasers. Additionally, there will be no limit to the number of rabbits per household, despite concerns regarding animal welfare, hoarding, escape or uncontrolled reproduction. Unrestricted limits has both benefits and drawbacks.  

Rabbit limits may adversely impact individuals and organizations that responsibly keep or breed rabbits, or foster or shelter unwanted rabbits. Local rabbit breeders are opposed to a limit.  

Two local pet stores in the City that offer rabbits for sale indicated that few rabbits are sold. Therefore, staff concluded that prohibiting the sale of rabbits in pet stores would likely have little impact on the number of rabbits abandoned or surrendered. Never mind that rabbit rescue/advocacy groups and other organizations estimate that over 90% of surrenders originate as pet store purchases.

Local rabbit breeders opposed a ban on unsterilized rabbits unless the ban was limited to rabbits sold as pets. They raise rabbits primarily for show and meat purposes, and generally sell their animals to other breeders or 4-H members. Show rabbits must be unsterilized. How irresponsible and draconian of ARBA and other organizations that exploit these poor animals. 

A universal ban on the sale of unsterilized rabbits is not recommended as it would prohibit people who wish to responsibly keep rabbits for meat, breeding or show purposes from obtaining rabbits within the City and may lead to greater surrender or abandonment of animals if owners who no longer wish to keep a rabbit can not afford to have it sterilized in preparation for sale.  Unbelievable! And these are the people at the helm.  

BTW, information and advice on the development on the bylaw came from - you guessed it -  the pet industry, Vancouver Island Rabbit Breeders Association and the Rabbit and Cavy breeders Association of B.C. Staff certainly didn’t acknowledge our input.  It’s the corporations, business, and other influential power players who run government.  Politics and profits trump principles and sound judgment once again.  

Amendments to the bylaw are expected to be brought before council for formal approval in February and would be effective immediately. It wouldn’t hurt to send a quick message with your thoughts.     

July 22, 2011 Victoria has announced that it will ban the sale of rabbits in pet stores. Councillors said it will not stop people who want an unneutered or unspayed bunny from going to another municipality, but it is a step toward the region-wide ban that is needed to deal with the problem of too many rabbits. Backyard breeders and 4H members don’t seem to get the message. Read more:

March 28, 2011 Saanich eyes new regulations for rabbits

Saanich Council is reviewing staff recommendations to amend the Animals Bylaw dealing with deer, dogs, and rabbits tomorrow evening. If approved by Council, new regulations will be in place by May 1st. Update: passed unanimously.

Recommendations regarding rabbits:

- Prohibit the feeding of rabbits in parks or public places
- Prohibit the sale or adoption of rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered
- Prohibit uncontained feral or pet rabbits on private property
- Prohibit the abandonment of rabbits on private or public property

Oak Bay has prohibited the abandonment of rabbits on public and private land. The bylaw states that a person who keeps or harbours a domestic rabbit must ensure that it be confined to the parcel of land on which it is kept or harboured.

Related: BC is home to one native species of Hare, the Snowshoe Hare and 2 species of rabbits, the White-tailed Jackrabbit and Nuttall's Cottontail. Vancouver Island, however, has no native rabbits or hares. Apart from the Eastern Cottontail, the only other species of rabbit found on Vancouver Island is the introduced European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus. This single species is the ancestor to 80 varieties of Domestic rabbit. (2007)

December 17, 2012 An amendment to Delta's animal control bylaw makes abandoning rabbits or animals of any kind a ticketable offense, the fine being set at $500.  

Read more: BC municipalities starting to prohibit rabbit sales in pet stores; UBCM resolution passes; letters; Vancouver 2017

Nanaimo feral domestic rabbits abound, gov't "experts;" VIU study; Sidney & Saanich issues; breeder busted

Be sure to visit our Rescue, In Memory, Facts page!

Domestic Rabbit Abandonment (current contact info)

Rabbit Multiplication (current contact info)