Rabbitats Provides Abandoned Bunnies with a New Home

A huge population of rabbits in the Lower Mainland is creating the need for more sanctuaries

Olaf and Nutmeg are best friends who grew up in Rabbitats together. (Kayci Roy)

Bunnies in the Fraser Valley who have been abandoned or surrendered by their owners can find a safe and loving home at one of Rabbitat’s micro-sanctuaries. Founded by Sorelle Saidman, the non-profit organization has provided a home for hundreds of rabbits, both domesticated and feral.

Rabbit overpopulation has become a consistent problem in Richmond and Surrey. Before humane organizations started sheltering the rabbits, farmers chose to solve the issue with violence when the bunnies began eating their crops.

“They did start shooting them, so I thought, ‘Why can’t they just be rounded up and put in a fenced area so they’re safe?’” says Saidman.

A lack of government assistance makes it difficult for rabbits to be formally adopted. Saidman says that when rabbits are left in a park or another public place, they immediately become wildlife and are unable to be relocated or rescued, regardless of whether or not they can take care of themselves in the wilderness.

“[The government] made everyone go through a permit process that took a year, when people on the other end … had hobby farms and were interested in taking a colony of 20 or 100 rabbits,“ she says.

The difficulty in getting a permit means that the large population of rabbits who are struggling outside of the domestic environment they’re used to don’t stand a chance of going to a safe and loving home.

“One by one going to homes isn’t going to cut it,” Saidman adds.

Rabbitats volunteer Alysha Makowsky has been taking care of rabbits at the organization’s mini-sanctuaries for years, and doesn’t expect to see a reduction in the herds of bunnies that come into the rescue’s care. According to her, many people who adopt bunnies don’t think about the effort or attention that goes into caring for an animal, and as a result, a lot of pet rabbits are abandoned or are forced to live in homes with families that don’t care for them.

Squidge, a recent rescue, is really curious about the camera. (Kayci Roy)

“People want something easy. They want something cute like the floppy-eared rabbits,” says Makowsky. “People get them, and then they’re too much work or they don’t have time for them, which is why so many of them end up here.”

Rabbits are sociable animals, and visitors to the Rabbitats mini-sanctuaries can commonly find them right under their feet while walking around the enclosures. Sadly, many rabbits there have been through abusive homes and, as a result, are afraid of humans and become unable to adopt. These rabbits, as well as those with health problems or those who have special needs, aren’t typically popular with potential adopters.

For feral rabbits, who would rather live without humans, rescuers wants to implement more non-traditional methods of bulk adoption. Places like Bear Creek Park offer train rides around the park, and putting spayed and neutered rabbits in enclosures around the park would turn them into attractions instead of pests, with lots of space to move around in.

Without help, the rabbit population will only continue to grow larger in the Fraser Valley. According to Saidman, 2018 will see the area pass the “point of no return” for the rabbit boom.

“Now we’re dealing with 2,000 rabbits in Richmond, and we’re already full with the house bunnies,” she says.

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