Delta wants the province to ban the sale of unsterilized rabbits in pet stores.
Delta council recently agreed to put forward a motion at this year's Union of B.C. Municipalities convention requesting Victoria implement legislation due to rabbit abandonment and proliferation in public areas.
"In Delta, a handful of rabbits abandoned five years ago has grown to a population of more than 500 rabbits which has caused significant damage to the landscaping and building foundations in the civic precinct and surrounding areas. In addition, there are concerns relating to public health and safety," a backgrounder to the motion states.
According to Delta staff, options for management of feral rabbit populations are limited. Culling is highly controversial. A program of catch, sterilize and release is problematic since feral rabbits are regulated under the Wildlife Act and finding appropriate release sites is difficult.
"It is a costly and time-consuming problem that is impacting an increasing number of municipalities," the motion notes.
Several municipalities have implemented their own bylaws to regulate or ban the sale of unsterilized rabbits, including Victoria, Kelowna, Richmond and Coquitlam.
However, according to Delta staff, a more effective strategy would be to implement legislation ensuring consistent standards are applied throughout B.C.
Earlier this year, the municipality launched a $60,000 program to capture, sterilize, tag and relocate hundreds rabbits in the municipal precinct.
George Harvie, Delta's chief administrative officer, recently said the program was going well. He said Delta Community Animal Shelter staff and volunteers had already relocated about 200 rabbits to Ladner Harbour Park.
At the outset, shelter manager Sarah Lowe said the goal of the program is to humanely capture between 20 and 25 rabbits per week for about five months.
Local veterinary clinics are supportive of the program, she said, and offered to spay and neuter the rabbits at a reduced cost.
Once sterilized, the rabbits will recover at the shelter before being relocated to the park.
Many will also be available for adoption through the shelter at no charge.
The plan also includes a public education component to discourage people from abandoning rabbits, which is considered animal cruelty in the Criminal Code, and the introduction of a bylaw restricting the sale of unsterilized rabbits in pet stores.
Back in the early 1990s, the Delta branch of the SPCA had a similar roundup that saw bunnies captured at Ladner Harbour Park. At the time, domestic bunnies abandoned by their owners were targeted.
In a December 1993 interview, SPCA superintendent Shawn Eccles warned about domestic rabbit abandonment, saying it amounts to cruelty to animals.
"If they're wild rabbits, that's fine. But you can't take a domestic animal, an animal that has been raised by man and fed on a regular basis, and receives petting and care, and then toss it out into the world," he said.
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