Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters

 

February 26, 2008
By: Sue Collard 

FREE TRADE IN QUESTIONABLE ETHICS? 

It seems as though Petcetera's Dan Urbani has been taking lessons from the US mega pet store chain Petco when it comes to reneging on agreements made, at least when those agreements involve the sale of rabbits. 

In March 2007, Petcetera and the SPCA announced with much fanfare that by September 2007 rabbit sales were to be phased out in Lower Mainland locations and then locations across BC.  Fast forward to February 2008 and what do we find but a number of Petcetera locations awaiting shipment of the latest batch of Easter bunnies, no doubt the same bunnies that will be sale priced for $29.99 after Easter has been and gone. 

This situation is eerily reminiscent of the one faced by the US based House Rabbit Society. Now 20 years old, and with international chapters and affiliates, the HRS faced similar problems in dealing with Petco more than 15 years ago. Petco's failure to live up to its promises led to the severing of relationships between the National HRS and Petco. 

Despite this, individual HRS chapters and affiliates like Minnesota have managed to implement relatively successful in-store adoption programs for rescue rabbits, which are clearly documented on the HRS main website at www.rabbit.org. Some of these programs have been ongoing for the past 5 years, so it's not as though there aren't positive example for Dan Urbani to follow, which begs the question of why he hasn't. 

Why is it that Petcetera has chosen to follow its business instincts rather than its much lauded commitment to “reducing pet overpopulation issues”. Why is it that Dan Urbani has chosen not to include rabbits in his PAWS program? Of course, for the past ten years Petcetera has had its cake and has been stuffing it back whole in Alberta,  where adoption of rescued rabbits has co-existed uneasily with the sale of rabbit livestock.  

Maybe Dan Urbani thinks he can do the same in BC, despite the fact that rabbit rescue groups are multiplying across the Province and numerous locations have reported feral and dumped rabbit issues, like Kelowna, Nanaimo, Richmond, Vernon and Victoria. 

And where does the BC SPCA stand in all of this? After all, it was the BC SPCA that negotiated this agreement with Dan Urbani. Could it be their hands are tied by their close relationship with Petcetera when it comes to dogs, cats and the trucks used to transport animals between SPCA locations? Maybe the SPCA could clarify just how many of the 1700 rabbits mentioned in news releases were actually adopted, how many went to independent rescue groups, and how many were euthanized as “unadoptable”? How many municipalities have resorted to “gunshot euthanasia” to deal with dumped domestic rabbits? 

We may  never know the answer to these questions but while pet livestock chains like Petcetera continue to not do what they said they were going to do, while they continue to sell rabbits without adequate information on their behaviour, and care and housing needs, problems are going to persist and there are going to be a whole passel of dead former pet store bunnies.  

And while Dan Urbani and the pet livestock industry could happily pass the buck by blaming “irresponsible owners”, I think it's going to be harder for the pet industry to do this when they're not living up to their part of the bargain. It's certainly going to be harder for Dan Urbani. 

Maybe Dan Urbani should take a look at the reasons PetSmart, another US based chain that has recently taken over 18 Canadian SuperPet stores, announced in December 2007 that it would phase out sales of rabbits in its locations. An immense amount of negative publicity about the company was generated during this period. Hey, maybe consumers like to think they can trust the businesses that supply to their pets – ever think of that, Dan?