Despite a strong push by animal advocates, the Pasco County Commission has decided to not ban the retail sale of rabbits in the county — at least for now.
Numerous advocates appeared during the public comment portion of the board’s Feb. 22 meeting, urging them to take action to protect rabbits.
At the Feb. 22 meeting, and at previous meetings in September and December, the rabbit advocates asked the board to include a ban of the retail sale of rabbits — in addition to the county’s ban on the retail sale of dogs, cats, kittens and puppies.
Many of their comments at the most recent meeting reiterated concerns raised previously.
According to the animal advocates:
- Rabbits are the third most surrendered pet
- It is difficult to find fosters and homes for them, because they are a high-maintenance pet and require expensive care
- Rabbits reproduce rapidly, resulting in more rabbits than wanted
- There are very few places that will accept rabbits that are surrendered or abandoned, including just one private rescue in Pasco County
- Rabbits do not fare well when they are abandoned to the wild because they are not well-equipped to defend themselves or secure necessary food and water
- Many people who purchase rabbits do so as impulse buys, with no clue of what a rabbit’s care requires
When the issue came up in December, the county board directed its department of Animal Services to research the issue and make a recommendation.
Mike Shumate, director of Animal Services, addressed the issue on Feb. 22.
A memo from that department in the board’s agenda packet, says: “Although the abandonment of pet rabbits is a problem in Pasco County, Animal Services found the data to support a ban on retail sales was insufficient to attribute it specifically to retail sales at pet stores.
“Pet rabbits are sourced from a variety of sources including local and regional breeders, online pet sales, pet owners, 4-H participants, and other commercial sources,” the agenda memo notes.
“Other factors that may lead to the abandonment of pet rabbits include the lack of rehoming options for pet owners; access and affordability of proper veterinary care including sterilization; and lack of public education for the care and ownership of pet rabbits,” the memo adds.
At the Feb. 22 meeting, Shumate said: “Our recommendation to the board at this time is basically to direct Animal Services to initiate an ordinance amendment that would strictly focus on the prohibition of sales in public places, such as the flea markets, and require the retail stores to have certificates of source.”
He added: “The department will provide public education programming on rabbit ownership; public information on rehoming assistance; and resource support for animal welfare organizations to help remedy the abandonment of pet rabbits.
“Some of that resource can be to help them with the spay and neuter of rabbits that come into their rescues,” he said.
Commissioner Mike Moore thanked the animal advocates who turned out to the board’s meeting and suggested to them: “Give this some time. See how it works.”
If it doesn’t work, Moore added, “ it needs to come back to us.”
Shumate told commissioners: “I think we definitely need some time, so we can actually start looking at the volume of rabbits that we’re talking about that are abandoned.
“We want to hear that from the public. We want to hear from the rabbit rescue, the other folks that work with rabbits, in the county.
“We want to see what the numbers are,” Shumate said.
Moore encouraged the animal advocates to work with Shumate through that process.
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said she would have supported the ban.
“I was OK with the ban. We had a couple of rabbits and it didn’t work out well for the rabbits.
“Our dog did not like my daughter’s little bunny, so that didn’t work out well.
“When I was young, we had a bunny and that bunny ended up folded up in the pull-out sofa. “We couldn’t find it and then we found it. It didn’t work out well for that bunny. I don’t think they’re great pets,” she said.
Starkey told Shumate: “I’ll go to your leadership. Bring it back to us, please and let’s see if we think we need the ban.”
Commissioner Jack Mariano also expressed support for Shumate’s approach.
Published March 02, 2022
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.