A Winnipeg couple is fed up with their neighbour’s domestic rabbits running out of a control and reproducing. Craig and Michelle Holigroski set up humane traps to capture the tiny animals and take them to the Winnipeg Humane Society. What should have been a simple process has turned into an aggressive issue between both the couple and their neighbours. Now a call for the city to introduce regulation for keeping rabbits has been made.
The couple sent the following e-mail to the Winnipeg Free Press on Thursday and also cc’d ChrisD.ca:
I am writing this story today out of frustration with our neighbours who will not control their domestic rabbits.
About one year ago, my wife and I noticed domestic rabbits wandering freely in our quiet East Fort Garry neighbourhood. We are accustomed to seeing the wild brown variety, living close to the river, but these white rabbits with orange and brown markings were notably domestic.
After some inquiry, we found the animals belonged to a neighbour at the end of the street near Pembina Highway. The neighbour noted our interest in the rabbits and offered us one, but we declined.
Today, there are now at least five brother and sister rabbits that roam the neighbourhood. What we found out is that at least one coupling occurred and near the end of August, six domestic bunny rabbits were born in the wild under our wooden shed in our backyard. Unfortunately, this started attracting predators like cats and hawks. Fearing doom for the young bunnies, we teamed with the Winnipeg Humane Society and rented a humane trap to capture the bunnies. Of the six, we caught five. We alerted the owners of the parent rabbits that a litter had been born, but they showed no interest in capturing them. Ultimately, the bunnies were donated to the Winnipeg Humane Society and will be available for adoption when they reach six months old (a few months from now).
Frustrated, we continued to trap in our yard for the parents, successfully capturing the mother twice and returning her unharmed to her owners. Twice, the rabbit failed to be contained by the neighbours makeshift cages and she remains “at large”, since giving birth to at least one more litter in our yard.
Having contacted the City of Winnipeg, I was told there are no regulations for the keeping of rabbits. City cats and dogs must be registered, and spayed or neutered, but not rabbits. That means there is a loophole which allows our neighbours to leave their rabbits unfixed having unwanted litters in neighbour’s yards, leading to heartbreak upon finding potential bunny carcasses ravaged by predators.
Since the rabbits are not licensed, and have no owner information on any tag or collar, we distributed flyers with pictures of the rabbits with the owner’s information encouraging all neighbours to contact the owners with the whereabouts of their wandering pets.
Earlier, I had mentioned the humane trap that was rented from the Winnipeg Humane Society. Last night, the trap went missing while we were away from our house. This trap is roughly two feet long, metal, and chained to a large cement block. It disappeared from its hidden place in our yard next to our house, cement block and all.
There was also a profanity-filled voice mail from the owner waiting for us when we got home with a threat to go to the police with what we had done. We have recorded the voice mail for playback to the police, fearing retribution. From our perspective, we have only done the rabbits a service in protecting them from a life of neglect or certain doom from predators. Our neighbours have likely gone onto our property without permission and removed a Winnipeg Humane Society trap, effectively stealing from us.
We would invite the City of Winnipeg to update their animal control laws to include rabbits to give us some legal means to encourage the neighbours to control their domestic rabbit population. This matter remains unresolved.
Craig and Michelle Holigroski
East Fort Garry