The Warren Peach Bunny Sanctuary is closed due to the threat of a deadly rabbit virus. - Credit: Facebook/Antoinette Monod

Lake Country bunny sanctuary closed due to deadly virus threat

The Warren Peace Bunny Sanctuary will be closed until further notice

The Warren Peace Bunny Sanctuary is closed due to the threat of a deadly disease that has been killing rabbits on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

The sanctuary has been closed for a month to protect the non-profit’s 300 rabbits and the managers are taking every precaution to protect the animals, said founder Antoinette Monod.

“We were hoping to be open by Easter, but we’ve been working with our vet and she says ‘no way.’”

Monod would typically display the bunnies at the Village Green Mall in Vernon, but this year she didn’t want to take the risk and will visit the mall on Saturday without them.

“Over Easter especially, it just takes someone coming from the Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island to walk through a park that has bunnies that were infected,” she said.

A cleaning crew has been directed to wear an extra covering on their clothing to protect the bunnies.

“Now it’s on the Lower Mainland and it’s spreading out,” she said. “It can be spread on people’s shoes, on their clothing. It can be spread by birds, by other animals. We’re trying to take all the precautions we can… we may be closed all of 2018,” she said.

The sanctuary is normally open from Easter to Thanksgiving.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is warning rabbit owners in B.C. to take precautions in the wake of the highly infectious virus on central Vancouver Island and parts of the Lower Mainland.

“While there is no threat to humans, in addition to rabbit owners taking precautions, the public is advised not to move domestic rabbits into the wild at any time,” said a March 21 press release from the ministry.

“As well, rabbit owners should take precautions when disposing of any rabbit remains.”

In late February, the discovery of over 300 dead feral rabbits in Nanaimo prompted an investigation into the cause of the animals’ deaths. Cases were also confirmed in the Comox Valley.

The highly contagious and lethal virus causes hemorrhages by affecting the rabbits’ blood vessels and attacking the liver and other organs.

Dead rabbits found in Delta were later confirmed to have had died from the same virus.

Chilliwack’s famous therapy bunny is also taking an indefinite hiatus due to the threat.

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