Surrey RCMP officers are going down the rabbit hole
A couple of pastors asked the Mounties to hop to it, because they claim their pet bunny was stolen from their East Clayton home on May 21.
But a volunteer with a Surrey rabbit rescue organization says that is not true.
Warren Brundage of the Suzaku Sanctuary Society says he is having a “hare-raising” experience dealing with the RCMP and the couple accusing him of theft. Brundage says he was simply doing his civic duty to save the rascally rabbit that was on-the-loose in public, before it could become roadkill or dinner for a coyote.
Brundage said the original call in early May was about two rabbits seen together, at large, in a neighbourhood where there had also been coyote sightings.
His first attempt to catch the rabbit, which is named “Beans,” was May 7. He successfully rescued the rabbit two weeks later on May 21 and says it meets the definition of abandoned under applicable B.C. wildlife laws.
Brundage said he reported the rescue the next day to the Surrey Animal Resource Centre. He said the RCMP officer involved, Const. Benjamin Boateng, is intent on brokering a return of the rabbit to the Westbys, who Brundage says have put Beans in jeopardy after failing to securely house the rabbit.
“It’s a huge problem, people abandon hundreds of them, as fast we can pick them up,” Brundage said. “The fact people would abandon their rabbit, an act of abject cruelty, and the police decide to come after me? I’m angry, frustrated and really disappointed in the RCMP because I expected better of them.”
Brundage, whose society is allied with the Vancouver Rabbit Rescue and Advocacy and Rabbitats Rescue Society, points out that abandonment of an animal is illegal and defined by the B.C. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as leaving an animal in a situation where the animal must fend for herself/himself.
But the rabbit’s owners, Sonrise Church pastors Chris and Sherri Westby, disagree.
Surrey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko said the case remains under investigation.
theBreaker.news sought comment from the couple. Chris Westby did not respond. Sherri Westby declined comment.
SPCA spokeswoman Lorie Chortyk said SARC asked for an SPCA officer for accompaniment to one of the initial visits to the location. She said there is a file open on a second rabbit at the property. SPCA has issued orders regarding cleanliness and size of shelter.
“We will be following up to ensure the changes have been made,” Chortyk said. “The case with the rabbit that was found loose and is not being returned is with the RCMP because, under the law, animals are considered ‘property’ so it would fall under property theft.”
The B.C. SPCA website says that free-living populations of domestic rabbits exist in urban areas, but often they are abandoned pets or their offspring. They are legally designated feral rabbits under the B.C. Wildlife Act, but B.C. SPCA still considers them domesticated.
Kim Marosevich, Surrey’s Acting Manager of Bylaw Services would not comment on the open animal control investigation, but she did offer advice.
She said the difference between wild and domestic rabbits is that wild rabbits never have floppy ears and will usually have light brown fur. “Non-domesticated rabbits will be afraid of humans as they are prey animals and will never approach us. Domestic rabbits come in a variety of colours, and will be less likely to run away when you approach,” Marosevich said.
If a citizen finds a domestic rabbit in the community that looks sick, injured or lost/stray, they can contain the rabbit in a container with access to air, call SARC to set up a time to drop the rabbit off at the shelter or call Animal Services to pick up the contained rabbit.
Marosevich also said there are concerns about the contagious Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus or RHDV, spread among both wild and domestic rabbits in North America.
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