The rabbit rescue at the Richmond Auto Mall is again being handcuffed by government red tape and the remaining rabbits are breeding!
Rabbitats, the rescue group spearheading the rescue, had already trapped their government-mandated quota of 50 rabbits out of an estimated 65 feral pets on the grounds — down from a previous estimate of 200 thanks to a 2012 wet spring that put a damper on breeding.
But Rabbitats is being prevented from both trapping the remaining rabbits (and now their offspring) and re-homing the rabbits already in their care while the provincial government’s Fish & Wildlife department sorts out its internal policy.
Rabbitats had a permit to transport the 50 rabbits to a sanctuary in Washington State adhering to government policy to export only, but discussions were also taking place about re-homing rabbits to private homes in BC. When some of the rabbits proved too small and fragile for the Washington facility, Rabbitats asked to re-home the challenged rabbits to BC residences first.
Among the many homes being offered in BC were at least five acreage or hobby farm owners offering to take small colonies averaging 10 rabbits each, which in itself would have housed all the rabbits, and Shearwater Island, a privately-owned seven acre-island offshore from the Shearwater Resort on the Central BC coast. (See attached).
The Fish & Wildlife reps have adamantly denied permission to house the rabbits in BC sanctuaries, but said they would permit private adoptions, says Rabbitats rescue head Sorelle Saidman. “The sticking point is the government’s definition of ‘sanctuary’. Or lack there of. Is a hobby farm a sanctuary? I don’t think so, these people are wanting to adopt the rabbits and care for them for life. This isn’t a non-profit rescue, it’s just people with the space and money adopting a family of abandoned rabbits.”
The permit for Washington State has now expired meaning all the rabbits are in limbo. (All 50 must travel together to properly establish a colony and avoid territorial fighting). “If the government wasn’t involved in the process,” points out Saidman, “all the rabbits would have long since been rescued.”
In addition to working out limits and definitions, Fish & Wildlife, under the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations, is also addressing permit costs, inspection requirements and other officious business.
“The delay is an incredible burden on the Auto Mall and the rescue,” says Richmond Auto Mall manager Gail Terry. “We had spay/neuter and long-term support budgets and homes lined up for every rabbit – and then some – when we started. We have ‘Rabbitville’ set up in a building scheduled to be demolished in the fall. The breeding rabbits mean we’re going to have to trap mothers and leave babies in the nest, which is upsetting. The budget is going to balloon. It’s a terrible hardship on all of us. It’s insane. There’s no common sense here.”
The government is definitely making sure the rescue and the Auto Mall adhere to the law.
“We had reps out here checking every rabbit’s tattoo and description against vet records and our paperwork,” notes Saidman. “Everything was perfect, there wasn’t one discrepancy. We’re doing everything we’re supposed to do.”
The problem is reminiscent of the rescue of rabbits at the University of Victoria. A court injunction had to be filed to prevent the campus from destroying the rabbits while rescuers waited for permits.
Rabbitats, in addition to seeing immediate movement allowing them to trap and possess the breeding rabbits, wants to see the red tape cut by taking the stray pets out of the wildlife designation altogether.
Rabbitats will be needing space for a new headquarters in the fall. Anybody with a garage, storefront, warehouse or barn is asked to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.