Coombs Rabbits Questioned

The province has been getting questions about the wellbeing of the rabbits at the Coombs Sanctuary.

Rabbits seen here at the Coombs Sanctuary are drawing concern from some residents and a group of activists. The Ministry involved confirms everything is as it should be.

Rabbits seen here at the Coombs Sanctuary are drawing concern from some residents and a group of activists. The Ministry involved confirms everything is as it should be.

Although the ministry responsible for overseeing the Coombs Sanctuary rabbits has been bombarded with negative comments recently, there are no apparent problems at the facility.

“Ministry staff have been checking regularly on this facility to ensure compliance and as recently as last Saturday (November 24) found no violations or infractions,” said Brennan Clarke, Public Affairs Officer for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, in an email.

Local resident Lyn MacDonald contacted The News concerned about why, when the rabbits were relocated to Coombs from the University of Victoria (UVic) two years ago, there seemed to be high, visible population of them.

“You could drive past there and look at the rabbits and there were always lots of rabbits everywhere, and now when you go past there you don’t see lots of rabbits,” she said.

Susan Vickery is the founder of the charity, Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society (EARS), which was behind the relocation and cares for the rabbits in Coombs. She said nothing untoward has happened to the rabbits, however, as expected, the population has gone from about 600 to about 500. Sometimes the rabbits are in their little buildings and can’t be seen from the road, she said, and often, when it gets cold, they go underground.

The Ministry’s role is to ensure Vickery complies with regulations relating to the care and treatment of the rabbits, and as part of the agreement all the rabbits were spayed or neutered. A few that were pregnant at the time of relocation were allowed to give birth to their offspring.

Vickery said she doesn’t house non-UVic rabbits at the Sanctuary but she is a volunteer at another, private building where newly abandoned or unwanted pet rabbits, including pregnant rabbits, have been housed.

Vickery said she has to keep records and file with the province and Revenue Canada. She said she has received numerous emails from people that not only question the rabbits wellbeing but some also threaten her life, and so she is wary about responding to inquiries.

She is currently doing some work in Canmore, Alberta where she has relocated a number of rabbits that were set to be euthanized, and said since she started work there she’s received packages with no return address, including one with 14 stuffed, mutilated rabbits. She is currently working with the Canmore RCMP to address these issues.

“I get people threatening my life and [emailing] all the nasty things they want to do to me,” she said.

Vickery said her website has recently been disbanded by hackers, her donors contacted and told the rabbits were suffering, and social media sites continue to post attacks on her and her work. She said she tries not to take it personally and continues on caring for the rabbits the best she can.

“I do all this for nothing, this is my life, and it’s pouring rain but I’ve been out all morning cleaning out after my rabbits and making sure they have fresh hay and I’ll be doing that till it gets dark, and I’ve got these people [attacking me], what is this?”