Battle to make bunnies legal sees no love from government

THEY'RE cute, fluffy and have Queensland animal lovers going hopping mad.

We're talking, of course, about pet rabbits.

But bunny lovers across the state are claiming a confusion between rabbits and hares is causing the State Government to turn a blind eye to legalising pet rabbit ownership.

Legalize Pet Rabbits in Queensland Facebook admin Alyson Shepherd said it was a personal tale of heartbreak that led to her working towards both raising awarenss for the legalisation of pet rabbits and helping people who were caring for bunnies incognito.

After having to move to Queensland from Melbourne because of her husband's work committments, Mrs Shepherd said she make the decision to bring her pet rabbit, Pod.

"I chose to sneak her in because she was a family member, so we decided to take that risk," she said.

Mrs Shepherd said even though there were vets in the state who would look after "long-eared guinea pigs", she was not so lucky when her pet bunny needed urgent treatment one night.

"She got sick and got taken to a vet where they said 'sorry, you aren't allowed to have rabbits' and put her down," she said.

"That's how I started the page."

Mrs Shepherd said people often confused rabbits and hares, who she said caused the majority of damage to crops.

"Rabbits and hares are being continually mixed up," she said.

"It's a different animal entirely."

She said rabbits could be desexed, toilet trained and come when their name is called.

"When you love your animal so much and to have it euthanaised when it could be saved was just heartbreaking," she said.

Mrs Shepherd said the group was running a petition online that had already gathered 3000 signatures, but 2000 more were needed before it would be presented in Parliament.

She said rats and mice were considered pests in Queensland but were still sold freely as pets, and said Western Australia, who legalised rabbit ownership in the '90s, had had no agricultural issues.

Mrs Shepherd said one of the problems with the criminalisation of rabbit ownership was that owners were being driven underground and were too scared to seek veterinary treatment for their pets, which results in animals having to suffer.

"You can go into any pet shop in Queensland and there's rabbit toys, hutches and rabbit hay as well," she said.

"A lot of people have rabbits but they're scared of going to vets so a lot of rabbits are dying.

"A $44,000 fine is ridiculous - people selling drugs to kids get off more lightly than someone with a desexed rabbit."

A spokeswoman for Biosecurity Queensland said there was no plan to make pet rabbit ownership legal in the state.

"Rabbits pose a significant threat to our environment and agricultural industry and as such there are no plans to legalise the keeping of rabbits as pets in Queensland," she said.

"Rabbits are an agricultural and environmental threat. It is well documented that rabbits eat pastures and crops, compete with native animals, destroy the landscape, and are a primary cause of soil erosion and preventing regeneration of native vegetation."

A $44,000 fine is ridiculous - people selling drugs to kids get off more lightly than someone with a desexed rabbit.

The spokeswoman said even though desexing rabbits would prevent a degree of risk to the environment, red tape and increased costs would be a burden.

"Although desexed and contained rabbits pose minimal risk to the environment and agriculture, there are practical obstacles to the mandatory desexing of privately owned animals, and trials elsewhere have not demonstrated that it is effective. Mandatory desexing is likely to increase red tape to industry and the community and will be difficult and costly to implement," she said.

Biosecurity Queensland refused to comment on other states in Australia which allow pet rabbits, but said domestic rabbits had been found to cause problems in the wild.

"Queensland is the only state to keep an area free of rabbits by maintaining a rabbit-proof fence and controlling rabbit populations in the area," the spokeswoman said.

"It is illegal to keep a rabbit as a pet in Queensland because of the significant threat rabbits pose to both the environment and the agricultural industry.

"Biosecurity Queensland cannot comment on the reasoning for differing rabbit laws in other states, but domestic rabbits released by their owners into the wild, and domestic rabbits who have escaped from their homes in other states, have been found to cause adverse impacts."

Should pet rabbits be made legal in Queensland?

This poll ended on 07 June 2014.

No - they're a threat to agriculture - 22%

No - they will end up neglected and dumped - 6%

Yes - they make great pets - 25%

Yes - it's time to get in line with other states - 45%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Topics:  biosecurity queensland pets rabbits

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