Rabbit Sanctuary stops accepting rescues pending new facility

Deadly rabbit virus forces rescue group to take extra precautions
The Rabbit Sanctuary in Simpsonville will not accept any new rescues until it has a space to quarantine the animals
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 11:16 PM EDT
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SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The Rabbit Sanctuary sits on a seemingly secluded 30-acre site filled with lush trees and bird sounds not far from Fairview Road’s busy retail district. Since 1967, thousands of domesticated rabbits - rescued from peril or other undesirable situations - have been brought here to live out the rest of their lives. However, founder Caroline Gilbert said she cannot accept any new rabbits until more precautions are in place against a lethal disease known as RHDV2 or rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 2.

“(People) know how to live with viruses and now rabbits have to,” Gilbert told FOX Carolina. “It’s made things a lot more complicated and expensive.”

All 45 rabbits currently living at the sanctuary have been vaccinated - a process that requires two injections, 21 days apart with quarantine periods followed by both.

“When we take any new rescue, we have to isolate or quarantine it for 14 days,” Gilbert said. “We don’t have an isolation ward.”

The Rabbit Sanctuary would like to convert a small shed on the property into an isolation ward but needs to raise money to do so.

“We have to do that or we can’t take new rescues,” Gilbert said.

Saying “no” to new rescues doesn’t come easily for Gilbert, whose time and research devoted to rabbits have led her to pioneer a predator-proof habitat that still allows rabbits to live naturally.

“We’ve been approached by other sanctuaries to see how this is done,” Becky Hummell, Gilbert’s daughter, told FOX Carolina. “Each rabbit has a mate - everybody spayed and neutered - and dirt to dig ...which is probably the most enriching part of their life next to having a rabbit of their own to live with.”

Gilbert said RHDV2 is unlike any other predators that have killed rabbits.

“This is much more insidious,” she said. “A virus is a hard thing to fight.”

To donate to the Rabbit Sanctuary, click here.