After trapping 13 released pet rabbits in North Red Deer, the director of the Wildlife Medicine Center described the town as a “hotbed for pet dumping.”
And the problem is not only Red Deer.
Carol Kelly, executive director of Medicine River Wildlife Center, has been driving through central Alberta to rescue dozens of pets this year — including Rocky Mountain House, Caroline and Innisville.
She said that neither Animal Control nor the humane community seem willing to round up unwanted and abandoned pets, so people are contacting the Wildlife Center about this issue.
Kelly, who is reluctantly taking on this rescue role, added because her nonprofit center near Spruce View is supposed to be caring for injured wildlife.
She feels it is cruel and irresponsible to buy an animal and then leave it outdoors when it becomes too difficult to care for, or euthanasia is too costly.
Among the center’s rescues this year, 34 parrots were left in a home after it was sold near Cereal. Kelly also had to collect a group of backyard cocks that were released into a cemetery near Christomer. (She feels lucky to have found the cock rescue group that took them.)
“This year has been an unusual year in many ways, but it has been the year of domestic pets getting dumped. I’m not sure if this is a result of people getting pets during COVID and then not wanting it or what exactly is going on,” Kelly said.
“We have experienced dumping of roosters, domestic ducks, parrots, snakes, lizards, always dumped cats, and most of all for dumped rabbits.”
She is now trying to bring back pet rabbits that were found free in Glendale, Oriole Park and Highland Green.
“They are very cute,” said Kelly, who noted that long-haired lions and angora rabbits were among the rescues, as were some short-haired ones.
She asserts that throwing pets is inhumane because these pets have no street intelligence. They often freeze to death, starve, or become a garden nuisance. Unwanted pets do not search for food in nature, such as hares, but dig people’s gardens. Dumped cats can kill hundreds of songbirds. Also, all abandoned pets can attract coyotes and other predators to cities, Kelly said.
Pet dumping could lead to a potential environmental crisis.
Kelly noted that rabbits released in Calgary’s Nose Hill Park have multiplied to the point that they are now getting sick and bleeding to death internally. She said hemorrhagic disease can flare up when there are a lot of rabbits in one area. Kelly hopes this “terrifying” disease won’t jump between hares.
Thousands of former pet rabbits now roam Canmore, and some residents of this community have left food for them and attracted skunks and predators. More wolves and cougars are drawn to Canmore to eat rabbits.
Euthanasia of cute rabbits was not only popular with Canmore residents, but was found to be ineffective and expensive, costing about $300 to hunt and eject each animal.
Kelly is at a loss as to what to do about all the unwanted pets in central Alberta.
She said she would be interested in leading a committee made up of members of the municipality, the humane community and animal control to discuss what could be done to solve the problem.
Amy Vingstad, a superintendent of parking and licensing in Red Deer, said she is not aware of the recent rabbit problem in North Red Deer, but is concerned that some city residents are leaving their pets to fend for themselves.
The best solution, Fengstad said, is to rehouse rabbits, dogs, cats or other unwanted domestic animals, rather than leaving them in a harsh environment that is not equipped for survival.
She believes Red Deer City will be open to talks about this issue. Residents can also provide feedback on the proposed and updated pet list on the city’s website.
Medicine River Wildlife Center
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