Nanaimo, B.C., breeder wants bunny bylaw brought down

Leiane Morrissette has owned and bred rabbits at her home in Nanaimo, B.C., for six years, but she's now facing a $100-a-day fine due to a bylaw that forbids keeping rabbits on properties smaller than one acre.

Bylaw forbids rabbit ownership on properties smaller than 1 acre

Liane Morrissette has never had a problem in six years of keeping rabbits but is now facing steep fines due to a Nanaimo, B.C., bylaw that forbids rabbit ownership on properties smaller than one acre. (Liane Morrissette)

Liane Morrissette has owned and bred rabbits at her home in Nanaimo, B.C., for six years — so it came as something of a surprise when animal control told her in January that she had to get rid of them.

As a result of an anonymous complaint, she's now facing a $100-a-day fine for keeping the rabbits, due to a bylaw that forbids keeping rabbits on properties smaller than one acre.

"I was a little shocked," Morrissette said. "I didn't really quite believe [the animal control officer] at first, but he was not joking."

Now, Morrissette is vowing to fight the fines and have the bylaw overturned. On Monday, she presented her case to city council, who will consult with staff on the issue.

Liane Morrissette says Nanaimo's restrictions on rabbit ownership are inconsistent and unfair. (Liane Morrissette)

Curbing the feral population

Nanaimo's acting director of public safety, Karen Fry, says the bylaw is intended to curb the area's feral rabbit population.

But Morrissette says the bylaw is inconsistent and unfair. She says it doesn't make sense that she can raise chickens on her property but not rabbits.

"I really don't think somebody with an acre of land is necessarily a more responsible pet owner," Morrissette said.

But Fry says rabbits can't be compared to chickens.

"We don't have a rampant feral chicken population," Fry said.

Nanaimo's rabbit bylaw is intended to curb the city's feral rabbit population, but critics say it makes the problem worse. (Liane Morrissette)

Bylaw part of problem, says SPCA

Leon Davis, the manager of the local SPCA, says the bylaw contributes to the feral rabbit problem.

"It either deters people from getting a rabbit or adopting a rabbit, and then sometimes when someone falls foul of the bylaw, they then have to give up all of their rabbits," Davis said.

This, Davis says, puts pressure on the organization's already limited capacity for rabbits.

Morrissette says her presentation to council was well received, and she's hopeful the bylaw will be changed soon, noting that of the 51 municipalities on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is the only one with a bylaw of this nature.

"They're quiet [and] easy to care for," she said. "It's a great animal for small spaces."

With files from Liz McArthur and Rhianna Schmunk.