Rabbitville at the Richmond Auto Mall is being dismantled as the rescued rabbits prepare to move to their new homes.
April 17th, 2014 — This weekend’s Easter Bunny Fest at the Richmond Auto Mall will be the public’s last chance to see the dozens of Richmond Auto Mall rabbits at home in scenic ‘Rabbitville’.
Families are invited to interact with the rabbits in their little villages and learn about their needs in our indoor/outdoor areas from 11 AM to 3 PM on Saturday and Sunday.
Rabbitats is also staging its final garage sale at the Auto Mall location and offering a myriad of items, many of them free or by gratefully-accepted donations, including pet supplies, furniture, housewares, knickknacks, jewellery and more.
Easter baskets, treats, cards and other Easter-themed items will be on hand as well.
Rabbitville is a rescue prototype designed for easy maintenance and the rabbits’ comfort and security and to allow gentle interaction between the rabbits and humans. We hope to share these designs with city shelters, schools, hobby farms, petting zoos and other venues housing rabbits in traditional hutches and cages.
The rabbit rescue at the Richmond Auto Mall has been a resounding success. We received overwhelming support from volunteers, sponsors and of course the Richmond Auto Mall itself.
Only a small handful of rabbits remain on the Auto Mall property.
The dozens of rabbits (just under 100) who have been housed at the current ‘Rabbitville’ location — an unused Auto Mall garage — are a mix of abandoned bunnies trapped at the Auto Mall and others brought in by the general public. They are being transported to new homes before the end of the month along with the components of their villages.
A small colony will remain at the Auto Mall until we receive permission from the government to move them (and the remaining loose rabbits), but they will not be accessible to the public. The rescue has been hampered by the provincial government’s laws and policies that designate domestic rabbits ‘wildlife’ as soon as they’re abandoned and not contained. People are allowed to trap and kill the rabbits but they are not allowed to trap and possess them without a permit.
To date they have only issued a permit to rehome the rabbits to a sanctuary in the US, something that is proving difficult. Most of the rabbits are too small for the sanctuary — the Auto Mall rabbits are mostly dwarf breed mixes — and the American rabbit rescuers are resenting the importation of more homeless rabbits when they have enough of their own to fill the spaces.
Although Rabbitats has had numerous offers from acreages, hobby farms, businesses, institutions and other destinations willing to take 10 rabbits or more along with their housing — the optimum rescue solution because it will keep the family groups together in a familiar setting — the current government policy does not allow this but we still hope to see a policy change in the near future.
We anticipate government permission to rehome some of the 45 “government bunnies,” but the status of others is still up in the air. Our domestic charges not caught up in the government red tape are being relocated to private homes and to new rescue centres in Abbotsford and South Surrey.
Rabbitats will be at the huge Pet Lover Show in Abbotsford, BC, February 15th and 16th with a full `rabbitat`set up and a load of cute bunnies. We will also be selling items including some sweet rabbit furniture and other pet supplies as well as cards, jewellery and treats.
The Pet Lover Show is the biggest and likely the only major pet trade show in the Vancouver area this year. The 2013 event was jam-packed and this year its expanded to twice the space with even more animal attractions.
We are looking for volunteers including rabbit wranglers to keep an eye on the bunnies and people to man our tables. (Unfortunately people can’t bring their personal pets).
Please respond to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are seeing some movement on the government front. Thank you to Richmond East MLA Linda Reid and Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie for stepping in on our behalf, and as always, huge kudos to Gail Terry of the Richmond Auto Mall for standing up for the abandoned bunnies (and their offspring) dumped on their property! (The rabbits are considered invasive ‘wildlife’ by the provincial government, they want them dead).
Our gov’t reps have received directives or at least queries from the Minister in charge. We’ve prepared a response and collected letters of support from veterinarians and the permitted sanctuary and expect some answers soon. The gist remains that:
1) many of the rabbits are too small and fragile to adhere to the provincial government’s ‘export only’ policy that dictates that all of our rescued rabbits must be sent to a sanctuary in Washington State as part of their ‘export only’ policy.
2) They are willing to look at allowing us to ‘adopt’ out rabbits rather than ‘export’ them.
3) The government still needs to look at the definitions of their own policy regarding ‘adoptions’.
A separate meeting with another arm of Fish & Wildlife (the responsible dept) was also enlightening. They seemed to also be more receptive to our small colony and rural adoption initiatives, but we still need to be allowed to do so.
That meeting also yielded a strong plea from the department for the rabbit rescue community to organize itself into a more cohesive group with a more unified voice. Rescue dissension, conflicting information, opposing goals, ‘alarmist’ media and other problems are greatly affecting the government’s ability and desire to properly tackle the issue.
We’ve been working hard and long on helping the Precious Life Animal Sanctuary find a way to repair their netting (a difficult task especially when travel involves a border, a bridge and a ferry making it a 4 to 5 hour trek). Many thanks to those who offered their assistance for our scheduled work parties, but we didn’t need the help after all. We had an AMAZING offer from a United States Navy and Marine volunteer platoon (30 soldiers!!) out of Bangor, WA, to come out and pitch in!
However, during our advance trips down there it was determined that the existing netting is at the end of its lifespan, it needs to be replaced, not repaired, including ideally much of the support structure, an expensive undertaking. We have researched and found a stronger, more resistant and less expensive style of netting (thanks so much to Kit and Pete at the Rivers Wish sanctuary in Spokane and Gina Matthews here in Richmond, BC, for the great tips!). This brings the costs down, but we have a ways to go.
Even with funding in place, the netting required special-order materials that could not arrive before the cold weather. We won’t send our garage bunnies outside without a chance to acclimatize, and PLAS won’t take the rabbit village and its inhabitants without the netting in place, so we’ll use the time to do additional fundraising, approach sponsors and make capital grant applications.
We will be asking the Ministry for a permit to continue holding the rabbits at their current location in the Auto Mall garage, and/or at one of the other holding areas offered to us, until the PLAS netting issue is resolved, or the government gives us permission to relocate them elsewhere.
If anybody can donate to the sanctuary’s Broken Netting Fund, thank you, the link is here:
As we type, our advance crew (Gail, Scott and Josh) are gathering in Sequim, Washington at the Precious Life Animal Sanctuary to clear the area for the Rabbit Village with a bobcat and assess the netting requirements.
A sizeable work crew is needed next weekend — October 26/27 — save the date(s)! Another crew will be needed two weeks later for the final step.
After much consultation and research, we’ve decided the netting needs to be replaced, not repaired, and we’re working to make that happen. Rabbitats and the Richmond Auto Mall is spearheading the project hopefully with fundraising assistance from the supporters of the UVic and Seattle bunnies currently housed there.
The project is now expected to cost closer to $4000, substantially higher than our initial estimate, but the new netting will last for many years and it will be far easier to maintain than the current netting.
Thanks so much to Kit at River’s Wish for all the advice!