Canmore’s feral rabbit population were denied one last reprieve from a full out cull after a Calgary judge dismissed a proposed injunction against the mountain town.
Dan Onischuk, an Edmonton photographer and rabbit advocate, argued the Town of Canmore’s feral management plan goes against the wildlife protection act and its process for selecting a contractor to remove the animals was discriminatory.
Justice Ged Hawco, however, found Onischuk had no grounds to file an injunction, which he characterized as an abuse of process.
“I am satisfied you have no standing and this is an inappropriate use of the courts and is in fact an abuse of the process,” Hawco said in addition to awarding costs to the town of Canmore.
Lawyer for the Town of Canmore Michael Aasen said the 2,000 feral rabbits living in the community are attracting predators into the community and causing property damage.
He said the problem and the solution are the result of private citizens releasing the domesticated animals sometime in the ‘80s.
“The province of Alberta has determined feral rabbits are not wildlife under the act and entirely the Town of Canmore’s responsibility,” Aasen said.
He added as a resident of Edmonton Onischuk lacks standing to file an injunction and his application asks the courts to do what the province of Alberta should do and is not an appropriate use of the court’s time.
Onischuk argued the request for proposal process initiated by Canmore’s council in June was discriminatory against any non-lethal option to address the feral rabbit issue.
He had made an application as part of the process, which was not accepted. In the end council awarded the contract to Animal Damage Control, which is expected to begin locating, trapping and euthanizing rabbits through gassing by the end of the month.
“The manner in which they reviewed the pro-life, no-kill humane proposals was highly discriminatory,” he said. “There was no consideration of the fact a number of submitted proposals were misled by a confusing RFP process.”
In particular the discrimination in the contract process gave an advantage to those that would kill rabbits, he said, because any proposals to spay/neuter the animals and place them in a sanctuary would have to be self funded.
“The pro-kill people did not have to incur those extra costs,” Onischuk said adding there is no scientific evidence to support the Town’s position that the rabbits are attracting predators.
Hawco said the fact Canmore received, considered and rejected his proposal did not give him standing.
“Because they did not accept your proposal does not mean you were disadvantaged,” said the judge.
Officials with the town indicated if a non-profit society for spay/neutering and permanent relocation to an appropriate sanctuary comes forward at any time the contractor will with the Town’s approval release rabbits to that group.