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By Mike Hazlip—
Signatures are rapidly growing on a new Change.org petition calling for the rabbit population at Sylvan Oaks Library to be re-homed and signage to be placed prohibiting dumping of unwanted pets at the site.
The Folsom-based Friends of Unwanted Rabbits (FUR) made a June 22 social media post asking the public to stop abandoning rabbits at the library, saying that domesticated rabbits are prone to disease and death when left in the wild.
“Domestic pet rabbits don’t know how to care for themselves outside,” an announcement from FUR said. “The rabbits dumped at this location run under cars. They don’t know to hide in the bushes or even what to eat. Shelters are just opening up after the pandemic and they are already bursting at the seams with rabbits.”
A separate group, Fair Oaks Based All Ears Rabbit Rescue, said they were contacted by Citrus Heights animal services. When the group came to the park to trap the animals however, they claim their efforts were met with resistance.
“We spent 3 days trying to trap and all 3 days we were met with people upset we were a rescue trying to trap the animals,” the group said in a public announcement on June 25. “By the 3rd day, we had anywhere from 7 up to 20 people at a time harassing myself, a foster, her daughter and my disabled husband all threatened by the community.”
All Ears Rabbit Rescue started the Change.org petition calling for the city to allow rescues as well as prevent further dumping of rabbits and other pets. The group says rescue workers have been “verbally harassed, physically threatened, and also given warnings by the police to leave the rabbits alone.”
The petition asks for signage currently posted at the park to be revised to eliminate what the group calls the “mistakenly identified” wild rabbits. Additionally, the petition asks for the installation of cameras and new signage prohibiting the dumping of rabbits.
“The situation at the Sylvan Oaks Library contributes to the vast problem of domestic rabbit overpopulation, abandonment, and euthanasia in shelters. This rabbit populations can become a conduit for the deadly Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus outbreak (RHDV2), which can destabilize wildlife populations,” the petition reads.
As of July 17, more than 38,000 signatures had been recorded on the petition.
The Sentinel visited the park earlier this month and spoke with a woman who did not want to be identified. She said she had seen people trying to trap the rabbits in recent weeks and said the rabbits instead should be left alone.
A prior article by The Sentinel last year reported that the rabbits are a beloved favorite around the library, with a children’s librarian stating the rabbits had been enjoying the area since at least the 1980s. A city list of “interesting facts” published in 2017 said “roving rabbits around Sylvan Oaks Library were set free 30 years ago by a teacher from a local 4th grade class.”
District Administrator for Sunrise Recreation and Park District, Dave Mitchell, told The Sentinel in an email that the district had contacted a local rescue agency. Mitchell did not give the rescue agency’s name, and it was not clear which agency has been asked to rescue the rabbits.
“We have begun a conversation with this agency to help guide us with best practices and to be our lead agency with other rescues as related to the long-standing feral rabbit population that has been on the Crosswoods property for many years,” he said.
Lieut. Michael Wells said police, which oversee the city’s animal control unit, have “limited involvement” in the rabbit controversy and referred the matter to Sunrise Recreation and Parks. He said the Police Department has not prohibited anyone from removing the rabbits.
“There appears to be a mix of feral/wild rabbits and domesticated rabbits,” said Wells. “These rabbits have occupied this area for several decades. We have not observed anyone dropping off rabbits at this location.”
Kim Davis, a volunteer at FUR told The Sentinel earlier this month that she believes it is important to get the rabbits into safe homes.
“I feel it is imperative that the city, county, park administrators and the local residents work together alongside reputable rabbit rescues so that all of the bunnies can be caught and either spayed or neutered, vaccinated against RHDV2 and sent to approved foster homes or adoptive families where they will be safe and cared for,” Davis said.
According to a CBS Sacramento news segment published Friday, the parks district is now working with Citrus Heights Animal Control to organize a meeting with rabbit rescue groups to discuss next steps.
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