Pet rabbits being abandoned, says Okanagan animal care organization

Three rabbits in a basket.
File photo of three rabbits that were abandoned in the Kelowna area but have been rehomed. The Responsible Animal Care Society

The Central Okanagan could soon see a sudden abundance of rabbits, warns a non-profit animal organization.

While this may sound cute, Cyndy Mymka of The Responsible Animal Care Society (TRACS) says it could be a repeat of 2008 when Kelowna saw an epidemic of abandoned pet rabbits.

When the city contracted out what was a short-lived cull, public outrage flared, resulting in quickly enacted bylaws that prevent residents from selling or giving away rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered.

Mymka says TRACS humanely trapped more than 800 rabbits back then, and sterilized them before adopting them out or moving them to specialized sanctuaries run by volunteers.

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Global Okanagan’s Adopt A Pet, Feb. 19, 2024

“TRACS was pleased when these bylaws were established,” said Mymka. “It gave us hope a repeat of the rabbit epidemic in 2007-08 would be avoided.”

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However, she says during the past few years, there’s been a noticeable uptake on social media where people are selling unsterilized rabbits.

“Although we have put bylaw officers in contact with people we were aware of, the issue seems to be evolving,” said Mymka.

“And as a result, our volume of calls has increased rapidly with even more in the past few months about abandoned rabbits in both Kelowna and West Kelowna.”

With Easter nearing, staff at TRACS are concerned that breeders are advertising baby rabbits as starter pets.

“Although TRACS has provided education throughout the years, many people have forgotten the issues of the past and still see rabbits as disposable Easter gifts,” said Mymka.

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The organization also says it’s common to see baby rabbits between six and eight weeks old being sold. That often results in misgendering, as it’s hard to judge whether a rabbit is male or female until two months or older.

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In one incident, Mymka says two young females were bought, with one of them being misgendered. Five months later, a litter of 12 babies happened.

“We have bylaws and some breeders think it doesn’t apply to them,” she said. “Or they claim they’re not breeders and disregard the bylaw.”

West Kelowna also has a bylaw on rabbits, which can live eight to 12 years.

And currently, TRACS cannot accept any more unwanted rabbits as their volunteer homes are full.

Contact TRACS for more information about rehoming, sterilization options or becoming a foster home.

The BC SPCA says it does see rabbits coming into its care every year after Easter, and “would like to remind the public that chocolate bunnies make much better Easter gifts than rabbits.”

The SPCA says it also has a list of things that people should consider before adopting a rabbit, and noted that some breeds can live up to 15 years.


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