“Nature Trail to Hell?”
With Easter looming on the horizon, the many groups who work to
rescue, rehabilitate and rehome BCs thousands of abandoned and
surrendered rabbits give a wince and sigh, and once again gird their
collective loins in an effort to raise awareness that the Easter Bunny,
far from being a happy little hoppy, is on the nature trail to hell – or
at least a miserable existence in a number of cases.
As the third most popular “interactive pet”, rabbits continue to be
sold from lower mainland pet stores, the most noteable of which is
Petcetera. According to information we have gleaned from Petcetera
staff, the number of rabbits brought in weekly to individual Petcetera
stores ranges from 1-2, to 6.
Multiply this by the number of Petcetera locations and it would seem
that a warren’s worth of rabbits is being sold by Petcetera monthly. Add
to this Petcetera’s plans to become what appears to be the Starbucks of
the pet livestock world (a baby bunny on every corner, just think!) and
a less pastoral Easter picture emerges.
With both baby rabbits and their prospective new companion humans
largely unprotected under current municipal legislation, you might think
that any responsible pet store chain with a professed and much
publicized interest in animal welfare would do their best to provide
adequate information about the animals they sell. Again, we can only
state that it has been exceedingly difficult to obtain any information
from Petcetera that would reflect current best practices with regards to
If their rabbit care flyer is anything to go by, it’s thoroughly
acceptable to cram a baby rabbit into a small 30” cage it will likely
outgrow and stuff it full of what can only be termed rabbit junk food.
No mention of spay/neuter. No mention of the need to have free run time
several hours a day. … But then, Petcetera is the business that displays
its rabbits in fish tank housing, and that regularly advertises sale
priced bunnies. (some with only minor health issues)
And speaking of both running and things diabolical isn’t there a
saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Perhaps the
BC SPCA decided to run straight down that path with the buns when it
implemented its pilot adoption program with Petcetera. Naturally, the
SPCA was full of good intentions, but I don’t know how it expected
people not to shake their heads a little at the irony of Petcetera
selling and, in conjunction with the SPCA, offering rabbits for
Is the SPCA monitoring the levels of information provided about
rabbits and the frequency with which it is provided? I don’t know, but
if it is they should be made aware that this information seems only
rarely to make it to anyone who professes an interest in rabbits.
Perhaps a more forceful “reminder” to Petcetera by the SPCA might be in
order at this point in time? Or training Petcetera staff in rabbit
welfare? Or something … anything…?
Of course, with the SPCA having no say in Petcetera’s retail
policies, and Petcetera as part of the pet industry firmly ensconsed in
the belief that responsibility lies with the consumer, what is a poor
bun/bun-lover to do? It’s either the rabbit’s fault (it was a “bad
bunny”) if it gets surrendered or –according to the pet industry - the
“owner’s” fault for not getting sufficient information. Perhaps PIJAC
members should try walking into a Petcetera and getting some adequate
info on rabbits, and good luck to them if they do, because Heaven knows,
we’ve tried without success.
In the meanwhile, bunnies are hopping up everywhere, from Telus ads
to Easter promotions of all kinds. So this year, let’s make it a truly
happy Easter for some buns. Be an angel and:
*adopt from one of the growing number of organizations that help
rabbits, don’t buy;
*save a life by spending time on researching what’s out there on
rabbit welfare and behaviour, not by spending money on inadequate food
*and support rabbit advocacy as well as well-intentioned attempts to
address the issue of the growing numbers of rabbits abandoned and in
need of re-homing.
Rabbit Advocacy Group of BC