Dear Dan Urbani:
Every month VRRA handles a large number of calls and e-mails
regarding rabbits people no longer want, rabbits people have no
idea how to care for, stray rabbits, and dumped rabbits.
Therefore, it was with mixed feelings we heard of the negotiations
between Petcetera and the BC SPCA around a trial satellite
adoption program for rabbits at Petcetera’s Grandview & Rupert
At this time we forwarded a brief proposal to you for your
consideration that included a number of concerns that were based
on specific observations by our members at several Petcetera
locations. We also indicated these concerns would need to be
addressed in any satellite adoption program that took into account
animal welfare standards that were on a par with those at the
location the adoptables would come from, which at the time was the
As we received no response from Petcetera outside of one call
from your Livestock Manager, we continued to raise issues with the
BC SPCA, including some over the pilot adoption program. The BC
SPCA has indicated that as it has “no control” over your retail
policies we should address our concerns to you as the CEO of
Petcetera. Accordingly, we would appreciate your response to the
1. Petcetera has allowed rabbits for adoption in a number of
locations since the late 1990s, usually one or two at a time at
any one location. Despite an ongoing relationship with several
groups of more than 7 years duration, rabbits in satellite
adoption programs do not form part of Petcetera’s P.A.W.S adoption
programs, not are they mentioned anywhere on your website. Can you
explain why Petcetera has chosen not to publicly acknowledge the
presence of adoptable rabbits in its stores?
2. VRRA is currently handling a number of former Petcetera
rabbits and based on our experience we believe that many more
continue to be recycled through shelters and rescues. Can you
explain how you believe the continuing sale of rabbits from
Petcetera locations contributes to “reducing pet overpopulation
issues”? Why has Petcetera chosen not to sell
cats/dogs/kittens/puppies and why does it continue to sell
rabbits, as well as other animals?
3. We are given to understand that a common response to this
question is that of “consumer demand.” We will state categorically
that such arguments are specious. There are over 200 rabbits
listed in Lower Mainland shelters and rescue groups, local
shelters are full to capacity, there are more rabbits waiting for
space, and a large number are abandoned, as any visit to Jericho
Beach, or other of the well known Lower Mainland dumping sites
will indicate. Given this, surely the presence of adoptable spayed
and neutered rabbits rather than sale priced baby bunnies would
make much more of a contribution to reducing pet overpopulation.
It would certainly help reduce euthanasia rates
4. You will be pleased to know that one of the former Petcetera
rabbits VRRA has dealt with was a young rabbit sale priced due to
a medical condition that will require ongoing treatment. Could
Petcetera indicate just how much “consumer demand” there is for
baby rabbits with ongoing medical needs? What would have happened
to this baby had someone not bought it? Would it have been
returned to the breeder? And would the breeder simply have culled
this unwanted return? What is Petcetera’s policy around unsold
“livestock”, and what information do you have on the fate of
animals returned to breeders?
5. Leaving aside the topic of supply, demand, and the
deliberate use of live animals as a sales hook, when will
Petcetera address any of the issues we have raised in prior and
ongoing corresondence, given the SPCA has indicated it is unable
to address these issues and therefore, by implication, that change
will have to be initiated by Petcetera? You will note that many of
them are identical to the concerns we brought to your attention
nearly 6 months ago, something that causes us significant worry.
a. Fish tank housing for rabbits for sale is inadequate and the
supposed relatively short duration of the stay of rabbits in the
fish tanks is insufficient justification for their continued use.
Could Petcetera please provide any empirical evidence that would
justify the use of this style of housing?
b. Adoptable rabbits were initially placed in undersized rabbit
cages on a counter in an unsupervised location, and remained in
this location for several days. Could Petcetera please explain why
this occurred and what steps it has taken to remedy this
c. There are few or no enrichment items provided to rabbits for
sale, and none provided to adoptable SPCA rabbits outside of those
brought by VRRA.
d. We have seen little evidence that sufficient hay is provided on
a systematic basis to either rabbits for sale or rabbits for
adoption, outside of that VRRA has provided for adoptable rabbits.
Hay is central to a rabbit’s diet and to the efficient functioning
of its gut and any sudden reduction of hay or changes in diet
could trigger ill-health in adoptable rabbits.
e. We have seen little evidence that rabbits for adoption are
provided with an adequate supply of fresh leafy greens, outside of
those VRRA itself has provided. In the absence of VRRA’s efforts
we would suggest that the diet provided for adoptable rabbits is
therefore of a lesser standard than the diet they received at the
Vancouver SPCA (where it is again provided primarily by VRRA and
SPCA volunteers). What will Petcetera be doing to ensure the
well-being of SPCA adoptable rabbits in its care and will it be
adopting animal care standards on a par with those provided by the
many volunteers who tend to rabbits in a number of SPCA shelter
f. The majority of staff seem woefully ill-informed of rabbit
care, behaviour and needs, VRRA members were informed that staff
did not understand why adoptable rabbits were being placed in
Petcetera, and staff showed remarkably little interest in the
adoptables. Has Petcetera initiated any form of staff training
around rabbit care and behaviour, does it have any form of
training specifically for adoptables, and if so what does this
training consist of? If it has not yet initiated staff training
when will it do so?
g. Little or no appropriate information is provided around rabbit
care, what information VRRA provided either went missing, was
removed, or was placed somewhere not readily accessible to staff
or customers. Former owners of Petcetera rabbits have indicated
they were provided with no care information at all. A VRRA member
had to specifically request information on at least 3 separate
occasions before any was provided. However, Petcetera’s rabbit
information flyer turned out to be nothing more than a shopping
list What will Petcetera be doing to ensure that current and up to
date rabbit care and behaviour information is being provided with
either each and every rabbit for sale or SPCA adoptable rabbits,
including the necessity for spay and neuter – surely something
that would help reduce overpopulation?
As it currently stands, I can see how the current satellite
adoption arrangement benefits the BC SPCA, by reducing the numbers
of rabbits physically present in its shelters. I can see how the
current satellite adoption program benefits Petcetera, as people
need to buy for their rabbits whether adopted or not. I cannot
see, given the above, how it benefits the rabbits.
The SPCA has indicated that the satellite adoption program will
allow people to adopt who might not otherwise come to shelters.
This may well be true, but perhaps it would better serve the
SPCA’s needs to get rabbits adopted if their current agreement
with you had somewhere included the fact that people would need to
know that an adoption program was in place.
I fail to see how Petcetera can claim that it is committed to
reducing pet overpopulation given it contributes to the cycle of
abuse , abandonment, and surrender through first selling rabbits,
second in providing grossly inadequate or no information including
a complete lack of information on spay/neuter, third in remaining
quiet about adoption programs that have existed for 7 years in
some parts of the country. Is it the irony of both selling and
adopting from the same site that keeps you quiet and leads the
SPCA to suggest we approach you for an answer to our concerns? Is
Petcetera concerned it might lose sales to adoptions were it to
fully endorse an adoption program that was on a par with those for
cats and dogs and that included removing live rabbits for sale
from its locations?
VRRA looks forward to your response on these issues. Feel free to
contact me at any time.