Letter from ADAV about the Killing of Feral Rabbits at Vancouver International Airport

Image by Joshua Choate from Pixabay

The letter below about the the practice of killing feral rabbits at Vancouver International Airport was recently sent to the Government of Canada by ADAV President, Laura-Leah Shaw.

We can all agree that passenger and staff safety at airports is important, and the discouraging of animals in the area needs to be done. But it can be done humanely without resulting in the death of the bird or animal you are wanting to remove.

In June of 2021 Tamara Voorman of YVR assured me they would no longer trap and kill the rabbit population on YVR airport grounds. The feral rabbits at YVR are a result of people discarding unwanted, intact pets who then breed. These rabbits are not native to our area or country, they are domestic European rabbits. We understand their attracting predators such as coyotes and raptors is undesirable and potentially dangerous for airport operations. 

Rather than killing the rabbits, the new guidelines being developed could require municipal governing bodies to enforce bylaws against dumping animals, (or create bylaws if non exist) with severe penalties to the offender. It could also be a requirement that animals such as rabbits not be sold unless they are spay or neutered. This would discourage breeders and greatly reduce the number of dumped former pets, particular around holiday times such as Easter, where baby bunnies are given as gifts …. only to be discarded later  when they become unruly juveniles. Like most animals spay and neuter settle the hormones that erupt as they enter their ‘teenage’ time of development, causing many people to discard them. 

In the case of YVR, with their ambitious development plans to make the airport a destination spot, a sanctuary could be built, under cover so no predators would be attracted. The rabbits could be spay/neutered, be safely housed, and become a real attraction for tourists and locals alike. There are many animal lovers including airport staff that would volunteers to look after the animals, with one or two employees to oversee the operation.

It would be so exciting for YVR and set an excellent example of feral animal population management for other government operations. At Granville Island feral rabbits were being trapped to be killed until public outcry caused them to reconsider and partner with Rabbitats (a local rabbit rescue organization) to provide spay neuter and future care funds, winning them public approval.

I would be happy to work with YVR to develop a management plan that is both humane and gets public support, rather than tarnishing the name of YVR and the government for using lethal methods for the feral animal control on their grounds.

You need more than wildlife experts and scientists to have input when creating policy – you need people on the ground who work with the concerns everyday, and have practical solutions. This has been successfully done before – the city of Kelowna partnered with an animal advocacy group called TRACS The Responsible Animal Care Society – www.tracs-bc.ca their work in feral rabbit management continues today. They are an excellent example of government bodies working with public interest groups to solve a situation humanely. This can be done effectively so everyone wins ….YVR and the government in public opinion, and the animals who are there through no fault of their own.

Thank you

Laura-Leah Shaw

Animal Advocate and President of 

Animal Defense Anti-Vivisection Society of BC (since 1927)

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