Police intervene after 'hostile reception' over rabbits

Rabbit rescued by SPCA. (Michelle du Toit)
Rabbit rescued by SPCA. (Michelle du Toit)

Cape Town - Police had to be called to the Valyland Nursery in Fish Hoek on Friday after staff refused to hand rabbits which had been kept under “inhumane” conditions to an SPCA inspector.

Instead, the nursery allegedly tried to send the flea-infested rabbits for slaughter.

When things turned “hostile”, police were called. This was after several complaints had been lodged against the nursery.

SPCA CEO Allan Perrins told News24 on Friday that the nursery's manager, Lucian Alexander, had told him that the owner, Warren Noble, had given consent for the rabbits to be handed to the SPCA.

The wildlife inspector who completed the initial inspection on January 16, Janet van der Vyver, was alerted and went to the nursery to collect the rabbits, he said.

Perrins said upon her arrival, nursery staff were allegedly crating the rabbits for slaughter.

“Janet phoned back in a bit of a panicked state saying that there is more than one owner and there has been a complete change of heart,” said Perrins.  

“They don’t want to surrender the rabbits to the SPCA anymore.” 

The situation became hostile and Perrins called police to ensure that the employees did not interfere with the execution of Van der Vyver’s duties. 

Too expensive to house

Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said police attended to the complaint but that a case had not been opened. 

Approached for comment, Alexander told News24 that his boss had told him not to say anything further.

Perrins said he believed the nursery had decided against keeping the rabbits because it was too expensive to house them in the correct way. He said buying tick and flea products cost about R75, depending on the severity of the infection.

Perrins said if left untreated, the fleas may be harmful to humans as well because they were not species specific. 

“If children go in there and play with the rabbits, they might also get bitten by these fleas and their bites are extremely painful,” he said. 

Approximately two hours after Van der Vyver arrived at the nursery, she managed to take possession of the rabbits. They were safely transported to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. 

The SPCA said in a statement earlier on Friday: “Should any rabbits be deemed unhealthy and be seen suffering, the vet will decide on the necessary course of action in the animals' best interest.”

If the veterinarian found indications of deliberate neglect, the SPCA would lay charges against the nursery. 

Perrins said they were struggling to determine who the other owner of the nursery was.

Democratic right

“I can’t lay charges against multiple people; I need to establish who the owner is so that I can lay charges against the correct owner.” 

He could not prevent the owners from choosing to slaughter their rabbits.

“If the owners insist that they want their rabbits back to take home and slaughter, it is their democratic right,” said Perrins.   

“Our only consideration then would be if they are going to be slaughtered humanely and what they will be doing with that meat.” 

If the meat was deemed fit for human consumption, it could be eaten but not sold. He hoped it would not come to that. 

“I would have thought that we could have counted on their whole-hearted co-operation and I’m shocked at the hostile reception that we received,” he said.

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