Mount Eden Rabbit House: Auckland’s neighbors at war over rabbits

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They are not wild rabbits. Photo / Alice Webb-Liddall

A suburban Auckland property home to hundreds of rabbits is causing a stir among neighbors, who have called on Auckland council to take control of the situation, writes Alice Webb-Liddall. Originally posted by The Spinoff

Dylan Lewis is surrounded by rabbits of different sizes and colors. The 51-year-old shares his large home in Mount Eden with hundreds of fluffy creatures, and neighbors are not too happy with the havoc caused by what they say are daily escapes from suburban Watership Down.

“Everything around us is the same, but we’re different. They don’t like people with different things, but it’s extremely important that this place stays separate from everything else,” Lewis said. The house he lives in certainly stands out from the rest of the street. There are piles of rocks and dozens of hutches of different shapes scattered around the yard, and just like the way the stars appear in the night sky, the longer you look, the more rabbits you see.

Auckland council was alerted to the situation two years ago after receiving several complaints about the escape of rabbits from the fenced property. Lewis tries to keep his rabbits locked up with a patchwork construction of chicken wire and other pieces of mesh and stones, but the rabbits only need a small space to get out of their enclosure.

The Spinoff was alerted to the Rabbit House by a concerned citizen, who crept into our inbox to say “there is this house in Mt Eden that has literally hundreds and hundreds of rabbits living in the lawn. front. Babies, burrows, giant rabbits – everywhere you can see it. You have to see it to believe it. Like every day a rabbit is lying dead in the street because it tried to escape and cars don’t have to worry about it anymore. “

The rabbits have spread to nearby properties and public trails and roads, destroying private property, the council said. A notice was served on Lewis and the woman owner of the property, Elaine Cowlin, asking the couple to confine their rabbits or face potential fines of up to $ 20,000.

The rabbits cool off under an overturned wheelbarrow.  Photo / Alice Webb-Liddall
The rabbits cool off under an overturned wheelbarrow. Photo / Alice Webb-Liddall

Lewis claims the rabbits the neighbors encountered on their property are his own. He believes the pests in lawns, vegetable gardens and on the roads near his property are wild rabbits – but given that this is a suburban street in central Auckland, the neighbors think it’s unlikely.

An Auckland Council investigation into the property is underway, Central Compliance Response Team leader Mark Parkinson said.

“Settlement notices have been issued to owners regarding the containment of rabbits under the 2015 Animal Management Regulations,” Parkinson said in a statement.

The Spinoff has seen copies of these notices, addressed to both Lewis and Cowlin, which describe the “many” complaints from neighbors about rabbits wandering off the property. The notices say the council has attempted to contact the couple over the past two years to find solutions to “proactively mitigate the nuisance caused by [the] animals “, but without luck.

Why does Lewis have so many rabbits? Five years ago, he bought four from a local Animates pet store, he said. One of them was de-sexed and the following night a cat wandered onto his property and killed him. After paying $ 200 for the deexteresis surgery – and taking sudden death as an omen – he refused to de-exterminate the remaining rabbits. Now, five years later, he’s lost count of the number of rabbits that live on (and in burrows beneath) the property.

Despite the numbers, the rabbits look well fed. Heaps of cabbage leaves, citrus fruits, tomatoes and rabbit dumplings dot the property and bunches of rabbits huddle around each pile. Lewis gets food from a variety of places, but the cost of feeding and maintaining rabbits is still very high, he said.

“It costs us about $ 700 a week in pellets that I get at the supermarket,” he explained.

“They browse about 12 bags of weed each day and I have also been to two veg shops, one in Waipuna and one in Royal Oak, and buy the veg they cut.”

In 2016, an outbreak of rabbit calicivirus disease wiped out many of his rabbits, but despite this, this spring the number of rabbits on the Mount Eden property skyrocketed, he said.

“The numbers have always been reasonable, just this spring it’s really booming. There’s nothing I can do. I’m just trying to take care of them and feed them. That’s all I can do. to do.”

The SPCA is aware of the situation in the establishment. A spokesperson said the organization “works closely with the owner and the board to get the best results for everyone involved.”

“The SPCA has offered assistance, including veterinary checks, vaccinations, deexorisation and other aids, with the aim of reducing the number of rabbits on the property, including rehousing.”

At the moment, the Auckland Council investigation is ongoing and Lewis’s neighbors are waiting for action to be taken. Lewis says that what happens with the rabbits is not in his hands or in his hands.

“How would I feel if my reproductive organs were cut off? Rather than controlling animals, I prefer to let them be natural. I am in tune with God and nature… This is what we stand for, this is nature. . Rabbits I happen to be one of them for now. “

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Raymond I. Langston

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