Rabbits at Cape Town nursery kept in 'parasitic, inhumane' conditions – SPCA

Rabbits with yellow pelt have been ‘humped’. (Isabelle Coetzee, News24)
Rabbits with yellow pelt have been ‘humped’. (Isabelle Coetzee, News24)

Cape Town - A nursery in Fish Hoek was issued a warning by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) earlier this week after it was found that it was keeping rabbits in "inhumane" and "parasitic" conditions.

But the manager of Valyland Nursery has denied that the animals were being kept in bad conditions.

After filing a complaint at the SPCA on Monday Michelle du Toit, who is the director of the animal organisation Barefoot Rescue, went to the nursery on Wednesday morning to see the conditions herself. Du Toit had been made aware of the rabbits by a customer of the nursery.

"All the rabbits seem to be displaying signs of distress," she said.

"They are covered in fleas and two of them are very yellow in colour which is a sign that they have been 'humped' - in other words, raped non-stop."

According to Du Toit, several rabbits who have owners are "boarding" in the nursery and the SPCA was therefore unable to remove the rabbits on Wednesday.

‘Community thing’

The CEO of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, Allan Perrins, on Thursday said that they are aware of the situation.

"We are aware of the inhumane conditions at the Valyland Nursey - it is unacceptable and inexcusable to permit animals to live in unhygienic and parasitic conditions."

The SPCA will follow-up with the nursery later on Friday.

Earlier this week Lucian Alexander, manager at Valyland Nursery, said two rabbits are currently boarding at the nursery.

"We try to keep that community thing going where we look after people’s animals, but that has actually been stopped because some of the owners don't come and collect them."

Alexander told News24 that none of their rabbits had yellow stains and that the exposed wires in their cages are caused by the rabbits, and that the cages were not in that state because of negligence.

Rabbits stained, flea-infested

"We've actually had the SPCA visit us last week and they were pretty happy with what they saw so I don't know where the allegations are coming from."

News24 went to the nursery on Thursday and confirmed that two of the rabbits did in fact have yellow stains on their backs and that some of the rabbits had fleas on their ears.

Valyland Nursery first attracted attention last Thursday when a Kalk Bay resident, Maxime "Rocky" Boris, went to the nursery with his 6-year-old son and they purchased two rabbits.

The next morning they found that the one rabbit had given birth to seven baby rabbits or kittens, as they are known.

"It was the first time that I was taking care of rabbits and my boy was so excited about the small babies," Boris told News24.

But the mother rabbit was not taking care of her kittens, so Boris called Du Toit, who investigated the situation on Saturday.

"We ended up bringing the mom and kittens home. Over the next few days all of the kittens died because they were born prematurely," Du Toit said.

Rabbit recovering

The mother rabbit was taken to a vet where it was established that she had a uterine infection, fleas, and may be anaemic too.

After going into respiratory distress on Tuesday, she was moved to a vet in Panorama where she is currently recovering in an oxygen tank.  

In another case, an employee from a store near the nursery said she was approached by one of the nursery's customers requesting assistance with a 3-week-old rabbit they had just bought.

"They're not actually supposed to leave their mom until they are 6-weeks-old. Even though they can eat and drink, they still need the mother's nurturing and care," she said.

"The bunny's ears were dried and hard, and you could see it was deformed."

However, Alexander claims that the nursery has never sold a baby rabbit younger than 6-weeks-old.

According to Alexander, Valyland Nursery does not plan to continue holding animals on the property for much longer.

"It's costing us too much time and labour, even more than our actual business."

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