Dozens of rabbits from the University of Victoria campus are bound for a new home at a ranch in Texas, after they were spayed or neutered by a Steveston veterinarian in preparation for travel.
Joseph Martinez, owner of Little Paws Animal Clinic, is one of three veterinarians permitted by the Ministry of the Environment to help with UVic’s rabbit problem by relocating them to the Wild Rose Rescue Ranch in Texas.
Martinez said he volunteered his time to spay and neuter as many rabbits as possible so they won’t have to be killed.
“It takes about an hour per bunny, but we are very efficient so we can do about two bunnies per hour. But I’ll work 16 hours a day to save as many as I can,” Martinez said. “Bunnies are my major interest … If we don’t try to save as many as we can, then they will probably slaughter the rest.”
In August, the Environment Ministry approved a permit to transport and export up to 1,000 rabbits following an outcry from animal rights groups about a university plan to euthanize more than 100 rabbits. Rabbits fall under the B.C. Wildlife Act, so groups that want to adopt the animals must obtain permits.
The permit to move the rabbits to Texas was granted to a not-for-profit group called TRACS (The Responsible Animal Care Society), which can ship up to 96 animals at a time. The group is trying to raise enough money to ship all 1,000 to the ranch.
The rabbits travelled first to Washington on Monday night, where they were to be monitored for a few more days before the journey south.
An Italian immigrant who has lived in Canada for 20 years, Martinez said he grew up on a farm; his family raised and ate rabbits and other farm animals.
But he developed a passion for all creatures at a young age and by 10, he said, he decided it was wrong to eat animals. He then became a vegetarian and pursued a career in animal medicine in Israel and Italy.
UVic’s rabbit overpopulation is thought to be the result of abandoned pets who began breeding on campus.
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