British Columbia

100th anniversary rabbit show cancelled due to deadly virus

The Vancouver Island Rabbit Breeders Association has cancelled its 100th anniversary rabbit show due to the outbreak of a deadly rabbit virus.

The Vancouver Island Rabbit Breeders Association is under a self-imposed quarantine

A viral haemorrhagic disease has killed hundreds of rabbits in British Columbia. (Dirk Meissner/Canadian Press)

As Vancouver Island's rabbit population continues to be ravaged by a serious virus, the Vancouver Island Rabbit Breeders Association is taking special measures to contain the outbreak.

The association's 100th anniversary rabbit show, originally scheduled for June, has been cancelled due to an outbreak of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease, which can kill a rabbit within 36 hours.

The Victoria-based association bills itself as one of the oldest continuous rabbit clubs in North America, and its vice-president, Lois Fernyhough, says the virus is a serious concern.

"This is a very lethal, very contagious disease," said Fernyhough. "There isn't really much we can do."

Fernyhough said that while the virus is not known to affect native North American rabbits, her association raises the European variety, which is the susceptible type.

"Even though it's just affecting, at this point, the feral rabbit population, these rabbits are the same species as what we raise," she said.

Self-imposed quarantine

Beyond cancelling the rabbit show, which sees breeders showcase their finest furry critters, the association is enforcing a self-imposed quarantine.

Currently, the association is not selling any rabbits, isn't allowing guests onto their premises and has locked down it's "rabbit barns" and "rabbitries."

"We're practising good bio-security measures," said Fernyhough.

The association hopes to reschedule the 100th anniversary show to a time when the virus is no longer prevalent.

Fernyhough's association joins the Greater Vancouver Zoo on the list of organizations taking extra security measures — the zoo has ended its rabbit petting for the time being.

So far the disease has claimed the lives of hundreds of British Columbia's rabbits, and B.C.'s chief veterinary officer says vaccines are on the way from France to help curb the outbreak.

With files from On the Island