Our hearts go out to our comrades at RAPS

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Our hearts go out to our comrades at RAPS. And so does our gratitude for taking this horrendous but ultimately very necessary step. No one can and should underestimate this horrible virus. Rabbitats has been trying to take steps to help limit the exposure to all rabbits in Richmond and came to the realization that the RAPS shelter was one of the most problematic destinations. It’s a very old building, it’s very busy, they take in all kinds of animals and they had more rabbits than would fit in a secure room. And the ferals liked to visit. They really did do their best but quarantine was pretty much impossible. Taking this tragic but brave step really was the right thing to do. Any surviving rabbits would have been carriers. We sincerely hope Rabbitats is never put in this same situation. The message that needs to get out there now is, again, to STAY AWAY FROM THE FERAL RABBITS. And vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. 

RHD Update

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As I’m sure many are hearing, there have been suspicious deaths at RAPS in Richmond (inside and out) and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease is suspected but not confirmed.
Rabbitats had already pulled most of the rabbits out of Richmond when we lost our office space and garage at the Richmond Auto Mall, we only had a few house bunnies and special needs guys in a trailer behind the old office, and they have been moved to our temporary Granville location and quarantined.
We also have colonies in Delta and our Surrey sanctuary rabbits, and no visitors have been allowed since the outbreak on Vancouver Island was confirmed over a month ago.
We’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of the vaccine for the several hundred rabbit under our wing, but if this is RHDV-2, the outlook is pretty grim for all the Richmond ferals. Its a horribly helpless feeling. The best line of attack is to continue fundraising to bring in as much of the vaccine as possible, and to warn people to STAY AWAY FROM THE FERAL RABBITS! We can’t stress this enough. The potential of spreading the virus, if it is indeed in Richmond, far outweighs any benefits. https://www.youcaring.com/rabbitatsrescuesociety-1127839

Please keep your distance!

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Attention well meaning people wanting to check on and feed the feral rabbits in Richmond and elsewhere: PLEASE KEEP YOUR DISTANCE! The Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus was spread in Nanaimo by people approaching and feeding the feral rabbits and spreading it to other rabbits in the area. Being in the direct vicinity of loose rabbits is an EXTREMELY DANGEROUS PRACTICE AT THIS TIME! The virus is spread on shoes, tires, clothing, etc.. The rabbits are enjoying their spring grass, it’s rich in protein and it’s sweet, they honestly don’t need to be fed anything else and they’re not going to be overly interested in treats, anyway. Please stay away from them! Thank you!

ATTN: Rabbitats Fosters, Adopters and Volunteers

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ATTN: Rabbitats Fosters, Adopters and Volunteers:

As previously noted, Rabbitats is finalizing our order for the RHDV2 vaccine.
**** All of our outdoor fosters and adopters, our colony adopters and the volunteers around our rabbits who have rabbits of their own are welcome to join us at one of our vaccine sessions but please check in ASAP. We need your numbers and locations.****
– NOTE: Our vet, Dr. Martinez at Little Paws, is not recommending the vaccine to his house rabbit clients at this time because Dr. Martinez doesn’t feel the risk of infection outweighs the potential discomfort of the side effects (elevated body temperatures and long-lasting lumps at the injection site) when it comes to house rabbits. This is something all house rabbit people need to consider. THIS IS A DECISION BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR VET.
– This particular virus is also not acting exactly like the other strains of RHDV-2, eg: the mortality rate is higher, it duration may be shorter, etcetera, so the vaccine may also not work exactly as expected. (In Europe, some vaccinations have been less effective than others, etc).
– Rabbitats’ rabbits however are mostly ferals living in outdoor colonies, a high-risk group, so all our rabbits will be done courtesy of Dr. Martinez and Dr. Rana from Apex who have both kindly offered to work as a team to accomplish this. (We continue to have the most awesome vets on the planet).
– the 50 dose pack purchase is by far the most cost effective method but it means the vaccines are done on site (not at a clinic), and we need to do 50 injections within a two-hour time drug viability window.
– We will also have single doses which are a little more sterile and can be administered anytime, anywhere, but these are much more expensive, the costs haven’t been finalized but we’re likely paying between $25 and $30 each.
– While the above described Rabbitats associates are welcome to join us, it should be noted that we’re doing a ‘cattle call’ here, the vets won’t be thoroughly examining the rabbits, it will be up to the guardian to determine they’re healthy. (The vaccine should only be given to healthy rabbits).
– Also because this is the off-label use of a drug not approved for use in Canada, a waiver needs to be signed by every guardian.
– While I’m pretty confident in our plans to vaccinate all our own rabbits in this manner, some of volunteers and adopters may want to book an appointment at the vet clinic instead. (Little Paws is bringing in a small amount of the drug for clients requesting it).
– Please respond privately, thanks! Deanna Hamm is gathering names.

Thanks Urban Pets

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Thanks so much to Urban Pets for giving us space for our bunnies! We are housing our adoptables colony there (31 rabbits). They were in a barn in Delta, a concern because flies are capable of spreading the recent outbreak of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease. The virus was found on Annacis Island in Delta over five weeks ago. Thankfully it didn’t spread, however the virus is still very active in the Nanaimo area on Vancouver Island. It also may have spread to Comox an hour north of Nanaimo so there’s always a danger it will reappear here. We have a much better chance of keeping our bunnies safe at their store on Granville. People are welcome to drop by and visit, although they’ll only be able to say hi to the bunnies through a window, the virus can also be tracked on shoes and clothing. Urban Pets are new to the building. It used to be occupied by a pretty bad pet store selling live animals, which they subsequently abandoned there. The Urban Pets people have come in with an adoption-friendly plan, and they won’t be carrying live animals in future unless they are under the auspices of a rescue. Our rabbits will likely be up for adoption at that location but only after the rabbit virus is no longer a threat. The store used to be a garden centre so we’re hoping to be able to build an enclosure and move more of our rabbits to their awesome back area. Please support this store, and please come to our Easter Bunny Fest there on April 1st!

RHD Information Sheet for Pet Rabbit Guardians

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What is Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease?
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is caused by a virus in the calicivirus family. There are a number of related viruses, some which do not cause disease. RHD was first reported in B.C. in February 2018 in the Nanaimo area of Vancouver Island. Follow-up laboratory work identified an RHD virus. Since then, the disease is suspected to have killed rabbits in at least one other community on Vancouver Island and is confirmed in one location on the Lower Mainland (Annacis Island). All dead rabbits have been feral European or domestic rabbits. All domestic rabbits are susceptible, so pet rabbits are at risk. RHD is a serious and extremely contagious disease with high mortality rates. Most infected rabbits will die but some have survived. The disease does not affect humans or other species including dogs and cats. The virus can persist in the environment for several weeks and may survive both heat and freezing.

How does RHD virus spread?
RHD virus spreads easily between rabbits through direct contact with bedding, feed and water as well as feces and body fluids. It can also spread between areas through contaminated materials (food, bedding, water, surfaces, human clothing/ hands, vehicles), dead rabbits, insects and wildlife (flies, birds, mammals) that have contacted or fed on infected rabbits. What are the symptoms of RHD? The virus causes hemorrhages by affecting the blood vessels and attacks the liver and other organs. Most affected rabbits die suddenly, but can show signs of listlessness, lack of co-ordination, behavioural changes, or trouble breathing before death. There is often bleeding from the nose at the time of death. Once infected, signs of illness usually occur within 1-9 days.

How can I protect my pet rabbit?

  • Minimize exposure to the virus
    • Limit human visitors who have been in areas where the disease was reported and avoid your travel to these areas.
    • Avoid taking your rabbit to shows/fairs or introducing any new rabbits into your home.
    • Ask visitors to remove footwear before entering your home and wash their hands before handling your rabbit.
    • Use designated clean clothing that has not been outside when caring for your rabbit.
    • Clean and disinfect any rabbit supplies entering your home (see below).
    • Use only high-quality commercial feed from manufacturers with good quality control.
    • Don’t use wild plants or vegetables or grass grown in areas accessed by feral rabbits or other wildlife, as food.
    • Remove or tightly secure anything outside (feed, garbage) that could attract feral rabbits, wildlife, or flies.
    • Exercise rabbits outdoors only in secured areas with no possibility of contamination. o Do not allow cats or dogs who go outside to potentially contaminated areas to access your rabbit’s housing area.
  • Monitoring and prevention
    • Monitor your rabbit daily for signs of illness and contact your veterinarian immediately with any concerns.
    • Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating. A vaccine is not yet available in Canada but a process is underway and a vaccine may be available later this year.

How do I clean and disinfect rabbit supplies?
Feeding and housing should be cleaned with soap and water, and then disinfected with a disinfectant that is effective against caliciviruses following manufacturer instructions. Most household cleaners are not effective against this type of virus. Advised to be effective: bleach (1:10 dilution), potassium peroxymonosulfate (Virkon), accelerated hydrogen peroxide (Prevail, Accel, and Peroxigard). The latter disinfectants are more user-friendly than bleach and may be obtained from your veterinarian.

Who do I contact with questions?
Contact your local veterinarian with questions about your rabbit. If you find a dead rabbit or rabbits outside, do not handle the rabbit(s), and contact your local animal control. Veterinarians and shelters have access to additional professional resources and support. For more information, visit www.spca.bc.ca/rhd.

More information from the BC SPCA

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Information Sheet for Rabbit Guardians (PDF)

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease published by Iowa State University (PDF)

We need your support!

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EMERGENCY!  The extremely contagious Rabbit Hemorrhagic Virus 2 has been found on Canada’s Vancouver Island and it’s likely to spread.  Our rescue is more at risk than others because we take in abandoned rabbits from the street and house them in protected but outdoor colonies.  We need to vaccinate our rabbits.  The vaccine is insanely expensive, it’s being imported from the UK under an emergency drug release program.  Please help us cover these costs!

RHD Outbreak!

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Horrible news out of Vancouver Island. They have confirmed an outbreak of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD). This is incredibly contagious and deadly. Please keep your rabbits indoors. There is no word yet if the virus is naturally occurring or released by someone as a method of pest control. The deaths have occurred in area heavily populated by the feral domestic rabbits considered pests, but the virus is also occurs naturally when this kind of density exists. We’re reaching out for more information.


Rabbitats, more so than any other rescue, can be affected by this. We will start taking immediate precautions and hope the virus dies out before it hits the mainland. Our thoughts and prayers to our rabbit friends on the Island.


More info on the RHD outbreak… (Please note that the date mentioned in this video is likely wrong, Dr. Walton posted that he was going by second hand info when he said it was Feb. 18th, the Nanaimo News story pegged it as Feb. 27th, so that’s the probable date of the first deaths).