Quebec shelters overwhelmed by rabbits as advocates demand stricter regulations

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The number of rabbits recently deposited at the Montreal SPCA is higher than the General Manager has ever seen.

“They are young people, most of them less than a year old,” explains Élise Desaulniers.

In 2019, the association welcomed 140 rabbits. In 2021, some 370 gathered at the animal shelter.

Desaulnier says people underestimate the amount of care and space rabbits need. Now, with the shelters overflowing, many need to be euthanized.

It is not only a problem in Quebec. Leaving rabbits outside has been an “epidemic for some time, but it has escalated dramatically during the pandemic,” said Haviva Porter, executive director of Rabbit Rescue Inc., based in Cambridge, Ont.

The organization has rescue teams operating in more than 75 cities in Ontario and Quebec, capturing domestic rabbits that have been released outdoors.

“We had to send teams every day, several times a day sometimes to get these rabbits,” she said.

Rabbits are not for everyone

Porter said domestic rabbits cannot survive outdoors for long on their own.

She said breeders and pet stores are contributing to the problem by not informing customers of the time, space and money that should be invested in a rabbit.

“Their vet bills are much higher than for cats and dogs and people are often unprepared for this,” Porter said.

Rabbits live longer than many people expect and can have problems chewing or digging around the house, she explained. But they can be amazing, social pets for the right home, she added.

His organization is asking for donations to help take care of rescue rabbits and foster homes to help take care of abandoned animals so they don’t end up being slaughtered.

Patricia Durocher, who handles communications for Proanima, a rescue in Boucherville, Que., Said her organization has also seen an increase in the number of rabbits being abandoned outside or deposited in shelters.

“It’s a lot of work having a rabbit,” said Durocher, but his organization has lowered adoption fees to compete with breeders and pet stores – encouraging the right people to adopt and care for them so that they do not have to be euthanized.

The Montreal SPCA made a similar offer in December, waiving adoption fees for families who have all the necessary equipment to care for rabbits.

Call to Quebec for change

Two groups of Quebec rabbits, Homeless rabbits adoption and the Quebec Association for the Protection of Rabbits, wrote to the Quebec government in November to call for stricter provincial regulations.

“Despite the undisputed efforts of municipalities to further regulate the sale of animals or sterilization, it is clear that action at the provincial level is needed,” the letter said.

Rabbits are offered little legal protection as they are raised for domestic purposes, to harvest fur and for food, the organizations say in the letter.

Assistant Deputy Minister for Animal Health and Food Inspection Christine Barthe responded last month by sending a letter to both groups, saying the government is aware of the need to educate the public.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will launch a campaign to abandon rabbits during the Easter period, she wrote in the letter.

Barthe said the ministry is seeking to “strengthen these awareness activities, provide information on specific rabbit care, and encourage citizens to report to the ministry any situation that could compromise animal safety or welfare. “.

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