A bunch of feral bunnies eating a green salad together.

About Rabbitats Rescue Society

Large numbers of abandoned domestic rabbits can be safely, securely and happily housed in indoor or outdoor ‘rabbitats’ built in conjunction with animal shelters, pet rescues, institutions, ‘green’ businesses or on private land under the care of responsible citizens.

Cities contend with abandoned pets and their feral offspring while rural areas deal with unscrupulous breeders who routinely release their unwanted stock. The non-native domestic rabbits soon become a problem for municipalities, businesses and neighbourhoods forced to deal with environmentally destructive natural behaviour like chewing and burrowing.

It’s a tragedy for the loose bunnies as they will most likely be killed by predators, parasites, sport hunters or trappers hired for ‘pest control’.

Rabbitats can help build affordable colony housing for sterilized rabbits and educate new rabbit guardians on low maintenance and sustainable care. Controlled rabbit populations can replace feral colonies.

Learn more about abandoned rabbits

What are ‘Rabbitats’?

Rabbitats in effect are ‘micro-sanctuaries’, enclosures designed to be escape proof, predator-proof, visually pleasing, gently interactive, sustainable and low maintenance

The ‘rabbitats’ can be indoors, outdoors or a combination of the two.

The designs, size and capacities depend on the land and/or building dimensions and layout, area predators, the natural vegetation, available materials and the budget.

They are designed to hold small to large rabbit colonies comfortably in a natural ‘warren’ environment.

They are constructed to keep the rabbits in and the predators out.

Who Will Host Them?

Hobby Farms
Farm properties can house a colony of rabbits in an unused stall of a barn, repurpose a chicken coop or a shed and attach a run or dedicate a small patch of land for a covered rabbit-specific enclosure.

Green Businesses
Garden Centres and Farm Markets are always looking for ways to attract crowds and attention and installing a cute ‘rabbit village’ on their property will be a welcome addition and can replace abusive petting zoos.

Animal Shelters and Rescues
Shelters can house their unadoptable rabbits together in a ‘rabbitat’ for increased capacity requiring less space and less maintenance than cages.

Community Spaces
Community gardens or community centres may have an interested organizational group or person who can take on the responsibility of a rabbit colony.

Institutions & Programs
Care homes, retirement centers and other institutions are often interested in diversions for their residents.

Private Citizens
Backyard space can be used as a family project or a relaxing respite area with vegetation, benches and rabbits.

What We Do

  • Identify and target ‘problem’ areas with overpopulations of feral or pet rabbits.
  • Promote the idea of Rabbitats and build a base of potential hosts.
  • Help potential hosts decide on whether a rabbitat is a good fit and if so, how many rabbits are sustainable.
  • Educate and supervise the Rabbitat hosts.
  • Advise on interactive and sustainable designs.
  • Advise on proper containment including escape-proofing and predator-proofing.
  • Consult with experts in landscaping, fencing, nutrition, health and colony behavior.
  • Advise individuals on the laws in their communities.
  • Work with local governments as required or necessary.
  • Advise on reducing maintenance and long term costs.
  • Research and solicit donated/low cost sterilization and other vet care.
  • Solicit deals or donations of fencing, ground wire and other building materials, food, etc.
  • Organize volunteer labor pools to construct or help construct the Rabbitats as required.
  • Draw up and execute a Rabbitat contract requiring hosts to check in regularly on a website forum, inform the Rabbitats organization of rabbit illnesses or deaths and surrender rabbits to the organization or sources approved by the organization at the time of the surrender in the event they can no longer care for them.
  • Encourage and advise municipal animal control and other shelters
  • Provide the best design for the area and resources.
  • Educate the communities re: rabbit abandonment prevention.

Notes and Considerations

  • The feral rabbits are considered wildlife in British Columbia and fall under the Ministry of the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and thus require permits to possess, but we are hoping that the escape proof standard designs and low numbers will ‘rubber stamp’ this step in the future. 
  • All permitted rabbits must be sterilized in B.C..  For non-ministry rabbits (recently abandoned or escaped rabbits, families born in captivity, etc), it’s possible to see only the males neutered with the females remaining intact, but this is not advised.
  • The province is adamantly against trap, neuter and release programs for rabbits.
  • The organizers’ goal is to save large numbers of rabbits.  We don’t expect a 0% mortality rate.  A 95% success rate is realistic given the perils of trapping, transport, surgery, predator protection and health maintenance and treatment.  Some populations are being controlled and not owned.

Risk Management

The story of the rabbits removed from the Victoria General Hospital grounds in Victoria, BC, a decade ago ended badly when the rescuers became overwhelmed or had life changes and were forced to abandon the rabbits. This proposal seeks to minimize the risk and potential damage caused by sanctuaries overstepping their resources.   Contingency plans and advance funding to support the rabbits for life is one option, but the emphasis is on distributing smaller numbers of rabbits to a greater number of destinations.

Long Term Solutions

Rabbitats wants to rescue the rabbits but we also seek to stop the flow.

We are lobbying for controls on all rabbit ‘sales’, not just pet stores. Rabbitats believes first and foremost that all animals should be ‘adopted’ and not ‘sold’ and that all transactions involving live animals need to come with screening, education and accountability.

Rabbitats would like to see a free and easy registry system with all animal guardians required to register and track their charges from the breeder to the animal’s death.

We encourage mandatory education for rabbit guardians, sellers and re-homers. Young rabbits when not sterilized can go through a period of unruliness lasting several months. A guardian not realizing their little pet will again be sweet and friendly can end up dumping the bunny in a park.

We are encouraging low-cost spay/neuter clinics and programs for rabbits.

We want diligent ‘pet dumping’ laws, surveillance, reporting options, enforcement and heavy fines.

Rabbitats recognizes that laws and education alone will not keep people from abandoning their rabbits in some manner, be it turning them loose in a vacant lot or rehoming the pet to an inappropriate situation or leaving them to languish or even starve in cages in their homes when they no longer have the ability or desire to care for them, thus we encourage city shelters to accept owner surrenders (most currently do not) and be given more resources to do so.

Rabbitats also encourages rescues and shelters to create supportive climates for people seeking to relinquish their pets.

We endorse outdoor homes, especially those with the capacity to house groups or colonies of rabbits: The prominent House Rabbit Society ably promotes rabbits as house pets for interactive enjoyment and the rabbits’ safety, all addressed in the rabbitat designs. While indoors is preferred, we support safe and enriched outdoor ‘rabbitats’, enabling fans of nature, wildlife, animals and/or gardening enjoy their company in a natural environment..