What originally started with Cadbury the bunny, has grown into a haven for small critters.
The Warren Peace Bunny Sanctuary, located on Pelmewash Parkway, grew spontaneously after the feral rabbit cull in Kelowna in 2005, founder Antoinette Monod said.
“I really just wanted a bunny, and my husband brought back a bunny that someone let loose around his shop and I fell in love with that bunny,” she said. Eventually, the bunny died, but Monod wanted another one.
This was around the time Kelowna was culling rabbits, she said.
“When you let them go and they’re not spayed or neutered, at the age of four to five months they’re having babies. They have babies every month,” she said. “It’s a huge multiplication nightmare.”
People started bringing her the rabbits, which continued to have babies.
“All of the sudden people were just contacting me… but I really just wanted one. Now we have over 300,” Monod said.
What keeps her going after 13 years is that people continue to release rabbits into the wild without spaying or neutering them, she said.
“Most of what we take in is feral colonies,” she said.
People will often bring her a few rabbits, but then they’ll quickly multiple.
“We just did one in Oyama where somebody dropped a few bunnies off at these people’s acreage and all of a sudden they had two, three, litters,” she said. “People just don’t know where to take them.”
The sanctuary accepts any and all rabbits.
“If we don’t, that’s a bunny we’ll have to trap later on, which is much more difficult than just opening our doors,” Monod said.
“I think that’s why I keep doing it, because there’s a need… I would love to be able to retire.”
The sanctuary has roughly 700 animals on the property including guinea pigs, goats, pigs, rats, ferrets, chinchillas, turkeys – all left without a place to call home.
“They deserve to live the rest of their life with some happiness and love and care,” said sanctuary vice president Amanda Cope.
“My dream, like any rescue or sanctuary, is that we wouldn’t be needed anymore. That is the ultimate goal,” Monod said.
The second goal is to find someone to take it over.
“As someone who is getting older, I have to think ‘can I do this in five years?'” Monod said.
She said in five years if she doesn’t think she can provide the animals with the same amount of care and support, then that’s when she’ll begin to cut back on the intake of animals.
But she hasn’t reached that point yet.
“We do our best to try and educate so people can learn and not releasing animals out in the wild, rather than us taking in 10 bunnies, we take in one bunny,” Cope said, adding it makes a huge difference.
Over the past year, the sanctuary fell on hard times when it closed due to a deadly bunny virus that spread in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.
Vaccinations against the virus cost $10,000, Monod said. Food costs roughly $1,500 and medical costs $3,000 every month.
But the community has shown overwhelming support.
A dozen volunteers also give Monod a hand, helping with cleaning, and grant writing, Cope said.
A GoFundMe started in last April for the sanctuary reached its goal of $10,000. Recently, it also won $1,000 as part of the Oxbow Animal Health’s Great Hay Giveback online contest which will go towards hay costs for the animals during the winter, Monod said.
The sanctuary came in first place with more than 8,000 votes.
“That really knocked us out of the park,” Cope said.
Monod said as her husband, Rick Lake, was running errands for the sanctuary, Lake Country residents cheered them on.
“The idea that entire companies were voting for us, that just goes to show what a wonderful community Lake Country is,” Monod said.
Monod was out in the rain Friday, with a cold – and on her birthday – preparing for the Great Pumpkin Giveback.
“That’s what sanctuary means, it means you open your doors to those in need,” she said. Warren Peace will reopen on Easter weekend, 2019.
To support the sanctuary, you can purchase its annual Boys with Buns Calendar, which is available for purchase at various locations in Kelowna, Lake Country and Vernon including Tri Lake Animal Hospital, or contact Monod online for a calendar at warrenpeacebunnysanctuary.org.
One-hundred per cent of the proceeds will go towards operating costs for the sanctuary.