The Greater Vancouver Zoo cancelled hands-on sessions with rabbits over Easter following word from the SPCA that a highly infectious disease that is 95 per cent fatal to bunnies had spread to the Lower Mainland. (SPCA photo)

The Greater Vancouver Zoo cancelled hands-on sessions with rabbits over Easter following word from the SPCA that a highly infectious disease that is 95 per cent fatal to bunnies had spread to the Lower Mainland. (SPCA photo)

Hundreds of rabbits to be vaccinated at South Surrey clinic

Vets volunteering time to protect 200-plus animals

More than 200 rabbits are to be vaccinated at a clinic in South Surrey Tuesday, as part of efforts to fight a nasty virus that has killed thousands of domestic rabbits on Vancouver Island and in parts of the Lower Mainland.

According to a news release today, the Rabbitats Rescue Society effort will involve 125 rabbits rescued from the Richmond Auto Mall, eight from the Semiahmoo Animal League (SALI) farm and more than 50 rabbits in foster care.

Four veterinarians – from Richmond, Langley, Vancouver and Squamish – are volunteering their time, along with “a small army” of helpers, the release notes.

The vaccine is to protect the rabbits from rabbit hemorrhagic disease.

B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development issued a news release last month advising rabbit owners to take precautions after confirming that the virus – which attacks blood vessels and organs – had killed hundreds of feral rabbits across B.C., including in Delta and Nanaimo.

Most affected rabbits die suddenly, but can show signs of listlessness, a lack of co-ordination, behavioural changes or trouble breathing before death.

The outbreak prompted the BC SPCA to temporarily suspend its intake of rabbits into all Island and Lower Mainland shelters. The Greater Vancouver Zoo cancelled hands-on sessions with rabbits over Easter following word the virus had spread.

Tuesday’s vaccination effort will use a vaccine not currently approved for use in Canada, however, “it has been imported from France under an emergency permit after a colossal cooperative effort involving multiple government departments and veterinarians,” the release states.

More than 1,000 doses of the vaccine were purchased this month, and another shipment is expected next month, the ministry announced earlier this month.