Pacific Animal Foundation (PAF) is a feral cat and rabbit rescue and advocacy group based on the North Shore. In conjunction with working in the community on a number of levels, including volunteering at the North Vancouver District Animal Welfare Shelter (DAWS), we felt that we could contribute further to the shelter by having the existing rabbit areas enhanced. Since January 1, 2002, when the SPCA lost its contract with the District of North Vancouver, there have been many substantial improvements, such as an outdoor cat courtyard, an indoor community cat room, two new dog exercise areas, and an indoor and outdoor play area for the rabbits.

Being in a shelter can create a number of stresses on animals which can impact health and behavior, so the more natural and friendly the environment the better. Confined to a tiny cage without the opportunity to exercise is not in keeping with recommended rabbit welfare guidelines, even on a temporary basis. So it was with disbelief when the Vancouver SPCA, a supposed animal welfare agency, installed twelve substandard lab cages for rabbits in the fall of 2004, and didn't have them replaced with more appropriate "housing" until May of this year. And that was only after numerous e-mails of complaint were sent to head office.

The District, in comparison, has always been receptive to improving the care of the animals at their shelter and has followed through with action. When PAF discussed plans to design, build and donate a large rabbit exercise enclosure with the shelter administrator in late June of this year, permission was quickly granted. Less than two months later the project was complete. Now the rabbits have four individual exercise areas, and the two removable dividers can provide the option of separating the pens into two eight foot runs.

Let's hope this can serve as a model to other animal welfare organizations who accommodate homeless rabbits.

Carmina Gooch
August 30, 2006

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