Stellarton neighbourhood overrun with domestic bunnies

Melanie Andrecyk and some of her neighbours in Stellarton, N.S., say they have caught eight bunnies. (Melanie Andrecyk/Facebook - image credit)
Melanie Andrecyk and some of her neighbours in Stellarton, N.S., say they have caught eight bunnies. (Melanie Andrecyk/Facebook - image credit)

A group of neighbours in Stellarton, N.S., say they are working to trap several domesticated rabbits that have been getting loose in the middle of town.

Melanie Andrecyk said she spotted her first rabbit in October, which she initially assumed was a lost pet.

But within a few weeks, more rabbits started appearing in the area and people became concerned about their well-being. Andrecyk said the animals are a domestic breed of dwarf rabbits.

"It's just horrible, you know, they're starving, they're cold, they're skinny and they're looking for food," Andrecyk told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon on Tuesday.

She said she believes the rabbits are escaping from one property in town, but nothing is being done about it. CBC News has attempted to contact the owner of the property, but has not heard back.

Andrecyk says she has been using live traps to capture the animals. (Melanie Andrecyk/Facebook)

Last week, Andrecyk and some of her neighbours started live-trapping the animals. They have caught eight and they believe there are about 10 more on the loose. She has taken in four and has been nursing them back to health.

"The bunnies that I have currently, they have scabs all over them. They're underweight. Their coats are kind of dull and not shiny like they should be," she said.

Andrecyk said the rabbits are vulnerable to other animals, including rats, foxes, coyotes and raccoons.

She said the bunnies are likely getting out in search of food, so people in the area have been leaving out carrots, lettuce and apples.

Andrecyk said she wants to get the animals proper vet care, as they need to be neutered and treated for parasites and fleas, but they are considered exotic pets and can't be taken to just any vet.

She said she's doing what she can afford, and what treatment she can provide. She said her goal is to get them fed and healthy, before adopting them out.

"I would love to be able to find them homes that are responsible, that will neuter them, that are aware of their needs, of their feeding, their teeth, maintaining their nails, their ears … I want people to be able to afford them and know that they need more space than just a little space."

Andrecyk says some of the bunnies are covered in scabs and are underweight. (Melanie Andrecyk/Facebook)

Andrecyk said she submitted a complaint to the Municipality of Pictou County, which was forwarded to the Town of Stellarton.

In an email, Stellarton CAO Susan Higdon said the local police department has only received one call about the rabbits and that was in October.

"Stellarton does not have a bylaw that would enable our staff to enforce anything with domesticated bunnies getting loose," Hidgon said.

"We do have an animal control officer who enforces our dog bylaw — but bunnies are not specified as an animal within his control. Any animal related concerns that are not dog-specific are all directed to the SPCA."

Heather Woodin, the director of programs and administration at the Nova Scotia SPCA, declined to comment on the situation in Stellarton because it's an open investigation.

Woodin said dwarf bunnies can be kept outside, as long as they are cared for and have a proper enclosure.

She said if a domestic bunny is found outside on someone's property, and there are concerns about its well-being, a person can call the SPCA's enforcement team to report it.

Andrecyk says she wants to get the bunnies fed and healthy, before adopting them out. (Melanie Andrecyk/Facebook)

The SPCA can also be called if the bunny is found on an unknown property and appears to be a stray.

"We're going to ask you a few questions to see if you're able to provide care in the interim until we're able to assist," Woodin said.

"We do have quite a few bunnies in our care, all looking for forever homes, so we specifically want to promote adoption of bunnies so that we can help more."

Still, Andrecyk said she expects the problem to grow before it gets better.

"This is becoming a problem. There's going to be a feral bunny population everywhere, just like the feral cat cat population, and without any regulations or bylaws, they just literally breed like rabbits, so there's bunnies everywhere."