Rabbit sale ban is a draconian solution
The Nanaimo Daily News September 28, 2010 Surely there are more important things to put on the city agenda than responding to cranks concerned about a bunny population explosion in Nanaimo.
The city is now using our tax dollars to commission a report that will go before council with the recommendation that the city ban the sale of rabbits.
Granted, the city wants to be proactive and prevent the problem before it reaches epidemic proportions such as that at the University of Victoria.
But perhaps banning the sale of rabbits will be about as successful as telling the rabbits to stop reproducing.
The idea emerges as part of a new bylaw that would make feeding deer within the city illegal. That is an idea whose time has come and cannot be implemented soon enough. But this bylaw should stick to the issue of the conflict between humans and wildlife. Issues around small livestock or domestic pets need to be addressed elsewhere.
The most obvious problem with banning the sale of rabbits is that anyone can go to Parksville, Duncan, Port Alberni or beyond to make their purchases.
Failing that, the bylaw may not even be constitutional. As well, it won't prevent people from giving bunnies away. Nanaimo may have problems with pot and other drugs; we don't need a reputation for black-market bunnies.
There is also the question of how legitimate rabbit breeders will be treated under such a bylaw. Anyone who's looked around the Vancouver Island Exhibition will recall rows of rabbits, many of which are sheared for their fur that is spun into wool.
Vegetarians and animal-lovers may not like it, but there is also a small market for rabbit meat. Placing this problem on rabbit breeders or sellers, regardless of their intention, is unfair.
To focus on them will not only cause more problems, but fail to get to the root of the problem. And that is the irresponsible pet owner.
Randy Churchill, the city's bylaw services manager, says people are buying the rabbits as pets, not getting them fixed, and then dumping them, no doubt thinking they are putting them back in nature.
Churchill has quite accurately identified the problem but has not followed through logically on the required solution.
Instead of using the blunt hammer of the law, the city needs to work with the SPCA and other groups on educating people about responsible pet ownership. The city may also want to consider beefing up its animal control site to accommodate more rabbits.
One area where a bylaw may be more appropriate, if it's not in place already, is hefty fines for abandoning pets. But that too would be difficult to enforce.
And if we start with rabbits, why not go after cats? Many people see cats as more of a pest than rabbits. Some argue that cats ought to be licensed like dogs. Or if there are enough complaints, maybe the sale of cats ought to be banned as well. There is no lack of feral cat colonies in this city either.
Again, this is about responsible animal ownership. Whether it's rabbits or cats, the most effective way to control the problem is by making sure people understand the responsibilities they bear toward their pets and what resources are available in the event they must get rid of a pet.
Unfortunately, with no stores that sell deer, the city will have to focus elsewhere to solve that problem. If only we could find such a simple solution to that issue.
Going to the extent of making rabbit sales illegal sounds rather draconian given that there is no current bunny crisis.
Our bylaws department runs well, but on this one they may want to take a hop backwards.