Kelowna Rabbits

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The rescue of free-roaming, abandoned rabbits in Kelowna, B.C. began as a race to save lives, but has grown into a humane management program that could prove pivotal in B.C. and potentially the rest of Canada.

The program knew its early beginnings in the spring of 2008, when the City of Kelowna hired a contractor to deal with the urban rabbit population in the most expedient and cruellest of ways, including death by air rifle. Horrified citizens across the country followed news reports about an incident where the contractor and his daughter attempted to stomp a wounded rabbit to death. This was documented and reported by a security guard monitoring Kelowna streets at night. Scrambling for composure, city officials called for an end to shooting the animals, but endorsed death by captive bolt in a killing box designed for rabbits. Not surprisingly, the contractor refused to have this operation monitored by a veterinarian who had offered his services. The result was another huge public outcry, and that was when the tide turned. Over 600 slaughtered rabbits and $54,000 later, Kelowna chose compassion over lethal control: TRACS (The Responsible Animal Care Society).

Click here for TRACS latest Newsletter

Prior to receiving the city contract in April 2009, TRACS had already rescued hundreds of rabbits. The organization had undertaken, without city funding, a program that involved humane trapping, sterilization, adoption, and building roomy pens on privately-owned land.

More than 650 rabbits are under the wing of TRACS–in foster homes and in sanctuary pens. The city contributed $11,500 for sterilization during a one year period, or the equivalent of about 165 spays and neuters. TRACS is working hard at trying to raise the rest of the funds required to sterilize, feed and house the rabbits in its care.

Private donors and organizations, such as the Animal Alliance of Canada, have extended generous financial assistance even as the program moves forward into its next crucial phase: creating a humane model for other communities to use as a resource.

In early October 2009, a representative from the University of Victoria visited a TRACS bunny sanctuary in order to assess its usefulness within a humane rabbit management program. The university reviewed and considered non-lethal methods to deal with rabbits roaming on its lands. Unfortunately, many rabbits are being trapped and killed. TRACS was pleased to share information with the school and to support the concept of humane rabbit management in B.C.’s capital city.

Rabbit numbers on the streets of Kelowna have dropped drastically since spring 2008. Sadly, part of this was due to the slaughter that occurred in the city that year. However, more rabbits have now been saved by TRACS than were killed through lethal management methods by the city contractor. TRACS’ humane trappers are continuing to remove the last of the bunnies from dangerous city roads. The city also boasts a new bylaw prohibiting the sale of unsterilized rabbits.

The development of a humane rabbit management model to be shared with other communities has begun. TRACS will be offering advice and information, including a cost-effective pen design package, to non-profit animal protection organizations and concerned citizens wishing to implement an effective rabbit rescue program.

To learn more, please visit the TRACS website

On behalf of the bunnies, THANK YOU ALL for making this important work possible!


For a good video on one of the numerous rabbit sanctuaries, go to:

News Articles:

December 3, 2010 

October 16, 2009