An animal shelter in Richmond has been advised to euthanize all 66 rabbits in its care after confirmation that several animals have tested positive for rabbit hemorrhagic disease.
The virus can cause death within hours and the Regional Animal Protection Society, which operates the Richmond Animal Shelter, says it was likely introduced by infected feral rabbits that were found dead on the property.
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A news release from the society says the Ministry of Agriculture advised all the rabbits at the shelter should be euthanized after tests confirmed the presence of the illness.
The ministry also ordered the destruction and replacement of all rabbit-related facilities, enclosures, supplies, equipment and anything that came in contact with any of the bunnies.
The current outbreak marks only the third time rabbit hemorrhagic disease has been detected in Canada and the first time it has been reported in B.C., but the virus has already caused the deaths of hundreds of feral rabbits in Nanaimo, Comox and Delta.
The society says it is working with the City of Richmond, the Ministry of Agriculture and the SPCA to ensure that everything possible is done to prevent the continued spread of the disease, which causes hemorrhaging, and attacks the liver and other organs.
Eyal Lichtmann, executive director of the Regional Animal Protection Society, says the shelter has a no-kill policy and staff and volunteers are devastated by the order to euthanize the rabbits, but he says it’s the humane thing to do.
“Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a horrific illness and to see an animal suffer and die from it is an excruciating experience which our staff had to endure in recent days. Sadly, by the time symptoms are evident, RHD is usually too late to treat,” Lichtmann says in the release.
A vaccine against the disease is being made available to veterinarians and clinics around B.C. and Lichtmann says the shelter had already placed its order before the outbreak occurred.
When the shipment arrives, the society says it will donate its portion to other animal organizations in B.C.
The Canadian Press