April 11, 2018 9:23 pm

Richmond animal shelter to put down 66 rabbits after officials detect a deadly virus

A Richmond animal shelter is euthanizing 66 rabbits after Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) was detected in some of them.

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Almost 70 rabbits are set to be euthanized at a Richmond animal shelter after feral ones died on the grounds and tested positive for a lethal disease.

The move comes amid the spread of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD), an illness whose symptoms show up in rabbits within nine days — less time than it can take for Ebola to show up in humans.

WATCH: Deadly virus discovered in B.C. rabbits

The rabbits are located at the City of Richmond Animal Shelter, which is operated by the Regional Animal Protection Society (RAPS).

B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that feral rabbits that were found dead on the shelter’s grounds tested positive for RHD — it then recommended that all the shelter’s 66 rabbits be put down.

“It’s highly likely that every single one of our rabbits has been infected with the disease,” said RAPS CEO Eyal Lichtmann.

He described the disease as “absolutely horrific,” saying the death that rabbits go through is “absolutely the most painful kind of death that you can imagine.”

Not only do the rabbits have to be killed — RAPS has also been advised to incinerate or otherwise destroy everything that the rabbits have been in contact with.

“It’s devastated everyone in our organization,” Lichtmann said.

READ MORE: B.C. rabbits dying from lethal virus that kills in less time than Ebola hits some humans

RHD affects blood vessels and attacks the liver and other organs.

Signs of the virus show up in rabbits quickly.

Many that contract RHD die quickly, but they can also show symptoms such as listlessness and difficulty breathing at their time of death.

A rabbit at the City of Richmond Animal Shelter.

Global News / File

The virus was first spotted in dead feral rabbits in Delta and Nanaimo.

Lichtmann pointed out that RAPS is a “no-kill” organization, meaning it doesn’t euthanize animals unless they’ve been hit with a life-threatening disease or sickness.

But its task now is to stop the disease from spreading, he said.

“It’s one of the most hard-hitting things to have ever hit our organization,” Lichtmann said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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