Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Update



Richmond, B.C. – April 11, 2018

The Regional Animal Protection Society, which operates the City of Richmond Animal Shelter, has been informed by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture that three rabbits who died in our care have tested positive for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease.

The highly contagious, airborne virus was first detected on Vancouver Island in February and has been found in Metro Vancouver in recent weeks. Staff of the Regional Animal Protection Society (RAPS) believe that the virus was introduced into the shelter by infected visiting feral rabbits, who were later found deceased on the property.

The Ministry of Agriculture has advised that all 66 rabbits at the Shelter be euthanized.

A vaccine against RHD was ordered by RAPS, in conjunction with other animal agencies in the province, after the virus was first found in B.C. Sadly, the shipment has not yet arrived. When it does, RAPS will donate our portion to other animal organizations in the province.

RAPS is working with the City of Richmond, the Ministry of Agriculture, the BC SPCA, as well as staff and volunteers, to ensure that everything possible is done to prevent the continued spread of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease in British Columbia.

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Families with companion rabbits are asked to refer to information online here regarding protecting domestic animals from RHD. Additional information about the disease is available here.

The Regional Animal Protection Society has been assured by the Ministry of Agriculture and the BC SPCA that all the precautions, which have included biosecurity measures and the quarantining our rabbits and the facility, were in keeping with best protocols.

RHD is not communicable to other animals or humans.

Statement from Regional Animal Protection Society Executive Director and CEO, Eyal Lichtmann:

“Staff, volunteers and the entire RAPS family is devastated by this news. Any animal organization would be greatly saddened by this circumstance. It is perhaps additionally painful for we who are associated with RAPS, an organization whose founding purpose was to provide no-kill animal care. Under our care, no animal is ever euthanized due to lack of space, treatable illness, physical defect, age, rectify viable behavioural or socialization issues.

“It is not only in the interest of preventing the spread of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease that these animals are euthanized, but also out of the humane impulse that drives everything we do. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease is a horrific illness and to see an animal suffer and die from it is an excruciating experience which our staff had to endure in recent days. Sadly, by the time symptoms are evident, RHD is usually too late to treat.

“We have been advised that all rabbit-related facilities, enclosures, supplies, equipment and anything that has come in contact with any of our rabbits must be completely destroyed and replaced.

“Our top priorities are to ensure that the animals in our care do not suffer and that everything possible is done to ensure no further spread of the virus.

20180411_111128_resized-SM“We are also bearing in mind the emotional impact this situation has on the staff and volunteers of RAPS, who are so devoted to the animals in our care.

“As anyone can imagine, this is a time of sadness for all of us. We will continue to do everything within our abilities to care for the animals in our community.

“We will do everything required of us by the British Columbia Ministry of agriculture and the BC SPCA to ensure that our facilities are free of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease before we admit rabbits into our care again. This will include complete reconstruction of our rabbit facilities, which will be a significant undertaking. We will keep our community and the public informed as developments proceed. We thank everyone for their continued support.”


The Regional Animal Protection Society (formerly the Richmond Animal Protection Society) has been saving and improving the lives of animals in Metro Vancouver for more than 20 years.

We operate

  • The City of Richmond Animal Shelter
  • Canada’s largest Cat Sanctuary (home to 500 unadoptable cats)
  • A vast fostering network
  • A social enterprise RAPS Thrift Store (a second Thrift Store opens in July)

In February, RAPS opened the state-of-the-art, not-for-profit RAPS Animal Hospital, a social enterprise facility that will eliminate hundreds of thousands of dollars in external veterinary expenses while generating revenue to support the programs that RAPS provides to the animals and people of our community.

RAPS is motivated by the knowledge that animals make our lives, families, neighbourhoods and communities healthier, happier and safer. Support for RAPS, including a special fund to reconstruct the rabbit habitat, is welcome at RAPSBC.COM/rabbits.com


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