Pet rabbits were vaccinated from RHDV2 by Langley’s Apex Animal Hospital on Sunday, Aug. 23. (Rabbitats Rescue Society/Special to the Aldergrove Star)

Pet rabbits were vaccinated from RHDV2 by Langley’s Apex Animal Hospital on Sunday, Aug. 23. (Rabbitats Rescue Society/Special to the Aldergrove Star)

Langley rabbits at risk of highly contagiousvirus, warns local non-profit

RHDV2 is on the rise in United States

  • Aug. 26, 2020 12:00 a.m.

A Lower Mainland animal rescue is warning Langley rabbit owners that COVID-19 isn’t the only virus wreaking havoc in North America.

A highly contagious virus is currently decimating rabbit populations in the U.S., explained Rabbitats Rescue Society founder Sorelle Saidman.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHDV2) resurfaced in the country in February, and has since spread through counties in six southwestern states.

Aldergrove-based Small Animal Rescue Society of BC (SARS BC) executive director Lisa Hutcheon remembers in 2018, when the virus first wiped out feral pet colonies in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

“That was a super stressful time,” said Hutcheon, who now ensures rabbits at SARS BC’s shelter receive RHDV2 vaccinations and yearly booster shots.

The Aldergrove shelter also has a 10- to 14-day quarantine period for new rescue intakes – to further eliminate the possible spread of the disease.

“Rabbits under 10 weeks are not affected by the virus yet, so orphans are easy to intake,” Hutcheon noted.

RELATED: Langley Township urged to take feral rabbit-control measures

The current strain circulating the U.S. has an even deadlier twist than prior – it’s affecting wild rabbits as well as the imported domestic European breeds, Saidman explained.

“The virus is considered a worldwide crisis potentially affecting the entire food chain. It can strike any time, anywhere, and the only defence is a vaccine imported from France.”

It can also wipe out farm rabbits and beloved pets, Saidman corroborated.

Rabbitats is urging people to vaccinate their rabbits by contacting their veterinarian or by attending one of the society’s low-cost clinics.

Hutcheon agreed.

“Get them vaccinated,” she stressed.

“We never know when or where the virus may resurface. And just because your rabbit may be indoors only, they can still be vulnerable. [Humans] can bring it to them without even knowing.”

Rabbitats staged a RHDV2 vaccination clinic on Sunday, Aug. 23 in conjunction with Langley’s Apex Animal Hospital. Pet owners drove through as vet staff vaccinated the pets.

The immunization clinic was a fundraiser for the rabbit rescue, which has locations in Richmond and South Surrey.

Aldergrove Star

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