Rabbitats “Easter Bunny Fest” to at the Richmond Auto Mall

Saturday, March 30th, 2013, 11 AM to 3 PM.


The Richmond Auto Mall rabbit rescue is hopping to a successful resolution.

Dozens of the Richmond Auto Mall rabbits  — abandoned pets and their offspring — have now been rounded up by Rabbitats Rabbit Rescue volunteers and temporarily relocated to ‘Rabbitville’, a fabulous ‘rabbit village’ set up in a big, bright Auto Mall garage.

The cleverly designed and wonderfully hand-crafted bunny houses along with feeding stations, play areas and other structures are being ‘rabbit tested’ by the long-eared residents to determine the best options for safe, comfortable, easy-to-clean environments.

The project was put together by Rabbitats volunteers (including hobbyist Joe Stefanich who donated his time and substantial talent to build the majority of the Rabbitville houses) using scrap wood and largely donated supplies, with full backing from the Richmond Auto Mall.

“We’ve been paying for the spays and neuters,” confirms Auto Mall manager Gail Terry, “and the 14 dealerships here have committed funds to support the sanctuary rabbits for at least the next five years.  We’re not going to abandon the little guys.”

The Auto Mall also donated a mini-van to the cause.

Rabbitats, specializing in rescuing large colonies of rabbits, encourages adoptions and re-homing by designing safe, affordable, visual and/or interactive spaces.

Components of the villages will be moved with the rabbits to their future homes.

Currently all the sterilized animals must either be adopted to private homes (including back yard ‘rabbitats’) or they must be sent to a sanctuary outside of the country.  (The rabbits are classified as wildlife and the rescuers need a permit to possess them).  The rescuers do not have permission to relocate the rabbits to BC sanctuaries.

However enough local locations have stepped forward offering to house the rabbits in BC if the provincial government would be willing.

Rabbitville is expected to remain set up at the Richmond Auto Mall for at least one to two more months. (Rabbitats is still looking for volunteers to help with the rabbits’ care).

The Easter Bunny Fest on Saturday will include information for the public about adopting and housing the rabbits. Both home adoptions and hosts for outdoor ‘rabbitats’ will be considered.

No rabbits will be going home with their adopters at the event, however.

“Rabbits need to come with mentors and manuals,” says Rabbitats founder Sorelle Saidman. “They are not a product, they’re living beings that need to be protected and nurtured. Impulse buys at Easter is one of the biggest reasons so many rabbits end up abandoned.”

Only a handful remain outside at the Auto Mall, although that includes bunny moms with kits in nests so an exact number is unknown.  The stragglers, mothers and babies will be trapped when they’re old enough, which is expected to  bring the total number of rabbits trapped to roughly 100.

Over 50 rabbits currently reside in Rabbitville.  Others are awaiting or recovering from surgery, in foster care, or housed separately.

The numbers were lower than the 200+ expected, likely due to a wet spring in 2012 that flooded burrows and discouraged breeding along with the high numbers killed by cars, hawks and coyotes.

There was also the mistaken belief that for every rabbit seen more are unseen.

“With domestic ferals”, says Saidman, “what you see is what you get.  These rabbits stick close to humans.  You’re not seeing them living in the bushes at the RIchmond Nature Park, they’re living on the small lawns and hedges of the Richmond Auto Mall. They prefer humans to coyotes.”

The numbers are again increasing, however, not only due to breeding, but because people continue to abandon their rabbits on the property.  Three fresh pets were dropped off last week, reports Rabbitats volunteers, including a brightly coloured lop-eared rabbit that likely wouldn’t have lasted the night.

While the seasoned pros can survive and propagate, the slow house pets, lop-eared rabbits, dwarf breeds and any colourful critters are not equipped for life in the wild, they’re not accepted by the rabbits who have already staked out the territory, and they normally die within a few days.

Rabbitats is calling for stronger anti-abandonment laws and enforcement and more support at the rescue and shelter level to give people with unwanted rabbits more options for safely surrendering their pets.  The rescue also wants to see the provincial government remove the domestic rabbits  from the wildlife designation making it easier to retrieve and re-home the abandoned bunnies.

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