Posts tagged UVic rabbits

AMONG THE ANIMALS: No bunnies for Easter

Originally published in City Living Seattle

March 12, 2012

Copyright City Living

Did you know that bunny rabbits, the kind we keep as pets, are a separate species from wild rabbits? The domesticated rabbit, oryctolagus cuniculus, is an animal descended from European cousins.

This fact may seem like trivia, but it is an important point in the world of animal welfare because domestic animals are those that require human care to survive and thrive.

As Easter approaches, bunny rescue workers shudder. While baby bunnies are available for purchase at pet stores all year, the urge to “get a bunny for the kids” at Easter suddenly seems stronger.

Sue and a special care bunny

Sue Brennan knows this story too well. She runs Rabbit Haven, a sanctuary outside Gig Harbor, and sees the sad endings for a lot of “Easter bunnies.”

As a child, I had an Easter bunny as well, and his story scarred my soul. The baby bunny came into our lives as an inexpensive pet for a low-income family.

The poor rabbit, like so many Easter bunnies, suffered terribly from the elements, being locked in an outdoor cage most of his life, sometimes with no food or water and scared to death by our dogs.

He spent only a matter of days out of his cage for years before we got him a pen. He was finally killed by a neighbor’s dog.

It’s a decade of tragedy that I wished I could have changed as a child, and I still wish that today.

Bonded rabbits having a nap

Brennan said this is the fate of many Easter bunnies when people or families don’t realize that bunnies need warmth, companionship, love and care for eight to 10 years. They are as big of a commitment as a dog or cat.

“Children can be just as happy with a chocolate or wind-up toy bunny at Easter, and no one suffers,” Brennan said.

Finding perfect homes

The Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) reports a significant spike in rabbit surrenders about one month after Easter, usually doubling their intake of rabbits to about 15 per month.

“People don’t realize that rabbits are considered an exotic pet, and may require more expensive veterinary care than people can afford. As a result, some rabbits that we get in can be in bad shape when they arrive at our shelter,” reported Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) spokesperson Kara Main-Hester.

Main-Hester said this is the reason that SAS provides high-quality veterinary care and special “rehab” time in foster homes for bunnies that need some extra TLC upon arrival.

She said that rabbits should live indoors and be “part of the family.”

There are currently 19 bunnies awaiting adoption at SAS. All rabbits are spayed or neutered.

Rabbit Haven also finds perfect homes for each of its 50 or so adoptable bunnies. Many Rabbit Haven “buns” come from animal-rescue and shelter groups who found the animals as strays or in hording situations.

A safe feral rabbit colony at Rabbit Haven

An unintended consequence of pet-rabbit abandonment is the rise of feral-rabbit colonies in many parks and campuses along the Pacific coast. A section of Rabbit Haven has been made into a permanent home for some 80 feral rabbits rescued from the University of Victoria campus in British Columbia when the school administration was threatening a campus-wide cull on the abandoned pets.

“It is illegal to dump any domestic animal in the wild, including parks and neighborhoods. Rabbits are domestic animals and fall under this regulation,” Brennan explained.

Rabbit Haven volunteers also offer temporary shelter for rabbits owned by servicemen and -women while they are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, knowing they will one day get to reunite bunny and family. Brennan tells the story of one soldier returning from his tour in Iraq whose bunny was so happy to see him that the rabbit literally jumped into the soldier’s arms.

Respected rabbits

The Rabbit Haven barn

When you walk into the Rabbit Haven barn, one gets the impression of a comfy, mountain cabin right in the middle of the woods. A cute, red, wood-burning stove heats the recently constructed building, and the marble floor feels solid under your feet in the entryway. This place is not an animal shelter; it is a temporary home for bunny rabbits, and it feels like that, too.

“These are all recycled or reclaimed materials,” explained Sue Brennan. “Someone was just throwing out the wood stove, and the marble is excess from a construction site.”

The rabbit pens inside the barn

Brennan, a contractor by trade, has a practical sense of what makes up a good bunny barn. Each of the roomy rabbit pens houses two or three rabbits, and the walls are lined with shiny aluminum for easy cleaning.

“I got it from the Boeing surplus yard,” Brennan said. “It’s aircraft-grade aluminum.”

Rabbits painted on the barn walls

Yet, with the added touch of industrial materials, the Rabbit Haven barn is anything but stark. The aluminum-lined walls have been elegantly painted with bunny portraits.

Brennan hopes that Rabbit Haven will serve as a reminder that bunnies need to be treated with care and respect, just like dogs, cats and horses. Pet bunnies are not to be left outside in the elements or abandoned when no longer wanted. Pet bunny rabbits are domesticated to be with humans, share in bunny companionship and live indoors.

To learn more about Rabbit Haven, to donate or to adopt, visit

If you currently have a rabbit that needs appropriate care, visit the House Rabbit Society website at

Seattle Animal Shelter holds a special adoption day for rabbits and critters called Cool City Pets on the third Saturday of every month. Find out more at

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at


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Victoria Times columnist calls for pet-store puppy sale ban

Well, here we go! Richmond’s decision to ban the sale of dogs from retail outlets is starting to spread throughout BC, and the latest call comes from Times columnist, Virginia Bennett.  See her simple and clearly stated article here.

For resources on banning the sale of dogs in your city, click here.

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“Yeah, you’re a rabbit.”

This is my favorite quote from the press coverage on the UVic Rabbits.  It’s from Laura-leah Shaw on her experience driving the UVic rabbits across the US/Canadian border.

“They go through customs, it’s really not a problem — the border’s fine,” she said. “We have a permit to take them through. The inspection is basically someone looking into the van and saying ‘Yeah, you’re a rabbit.'” Read more.
(Photo left:  Rabbit Haven in Gig Harbor, right across from the Canadian border.)

R.A.F. men with their pet rabbits at a Squadron near the lines

RAF men showing off their pet rabbits, France, during World War I. Lying underneath the fuselage of an aeroplane, these three RAF men parade their pet rabbits for the cameras inspection. Well known for their fondness of animals, British soldiers were keenly aware that keeping pets was an excellent way of maintaining a regiment’s morale – hence the large number of regimental mascots adopted by British troops.

Rabbits were not the only animals kept by soldiers during the Great War. Despite the shellfire, cats co-existed with soldiers in the trenches, where they killed rats and mice and thus helped to fight disease and protect food supplies. In addition to using pigeons to carry messages, soldiers sent canaries and mice into the mining tunnels being dug underneath enemy lines as a means of checking for poisonous gases.

[Original reads: ‘OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT IN FRANCE. R.A.F. men with their pet rabbits at a Squadron near the lines.’]

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700 UVic rabbits take road trip to Texas (Richmond News)

by Christie Lagally

(Photo left: TRACS for Texas-bound Bunnies)

See original article in the Richmond News

The University of Victoria bunny rescue effort is almost ubiquitous.

This issue has received a lot of press for a number of reasons: the damage caused by the rabbits, the inhumane treatment caused by trapping during breeding season, and the amount of resources spent by the university while making no progress in dealing with the animals.

However, following a court decision to allow the trapping and relocation of thousands of rabbits from the UVic campus, rescuers are scrambling to find a way to make that happen and solve UVic’s rabbit problem.

So, in the spirit of back-to-school, here is a word problem for those new freshmen at UVic; Say you have 700 bunnies living on campus that are the offspring of abandoned pets, and say they are eating all your landscaping and digging holes in the lawns.

One day, you decide they must be shipped off somewhere else, and a sanctuary in Texas offers to take some of them (others will stay on Vancouver Island.)

If you can trap approximately 30 rabbits per trip, make a stop in Richmond to have them spayed and neutered and head down south to Texas, how long will it take for all the rabbits to reach the Wild Rose Rescue Ranch and how much will it cost?”

If I were faced with this question on an exam, I would fail Rabbit Rescue 101, which is hopefully a required course at UVic by now.

As with so many real-world problems, we need a little more information.

First, it takes a few days for UVic staff to trap the rabbits and three or four days for the little guys to get fixed by the veterinary in Richmond.

The rabbits are then transported across the border to Washington so they are out of the country within the seven-day time period set by the Ministry of the Environment who apparently “digs” getting into the nitty-gritty of abandoned pet-bunny management.

The drive to Wild Rose Rescue Ranch is 3,869 km, and the truck from Washington State to Texas comes up infrequently. The answer: it will take about five to six months to move the rabbits (if all goes well), but the Ministry has given TRACS for Texas-bound Bunnies until roughly the end of November to get the job done or the rabbits will be killed by the university.

TRACS for Texas-bound Bunnies is an ad hoc organization which includes The Responsible Animal Care Society (TRACS) in Westbank, B.C.

They are one of many organizations working on the UVic rabbit rescue, but TRACS is transporting and spaying/neutering the 700 Texas-bound rabbits.

And with only three months, instead of six months to implement this bunny road trip, TRACS needs our help to speed things along.

While a generous donation from FurBearer Defenders is paying for some of the costs, volunteers are needed to help drive the bunnies across the border and assist with the post spay/neuter surgery recovery of the rabbits.

Moreover, TRACS is in need of donations of rabbit pellets, bales of hay, fresh produce, animal carriers, water bottles and gas cards to pay for the transportation costs.

TRACS has also made a special plea to residents of local farms to provide a temporary resting area where the rabbits can safely await transport to the States.

Furthermore, volunteers are needed to hold fundraisers for this three-month rescue effort, and this is a great opportunity to get involved in helping animals for a short period of time.

With your help, the UVic rabbits will be speaking with a Texas accent by Christmas time – a much better future than their impending doom at UVic.

To help the Texas-bound bunnies call TRACS (Vancouver) at (604) 551-9297 or donate online at

Christie Lagally is a pet columnist. View her blog at

© Copyright (c) Richmond News

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Check out — a wonderful resource for friends of hopping friends

The more I learn about the massive undertaking to move the UVic rabbits from the campus on Vancouver Island to sanctuaries on the Island and south to Texas, the more I am in awe of volunteers who have had to put their lives on hold to help these precious creatures.  Furthermore, I’m learning so much about rabbits along the way.  During my conversations with TRACS for Texas-bound Bunnies volunteer Sorelle Saidman, I learned that she maintains a wonderful online forum on rabbits and rabbit rescue called

At this forum, you can track the ongoing progress of the UVic bunnies.  But even more fun is the rabbit and hat photo contest.  What a great idea!

(Photo left:  Barley the rabbit at the Richmond Animal Shelter)

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