Warren Brundage with “Beans” the rabbit. (Submitted photo)

Warren Brundage with “Beans” the rabbit. (Submitted photo)

Surrey RCMP hot on bunny trail, investigating Newton man who claims he ‘rescued’ rabbit

Warren Brundage questions RCMP’s use of time and resources as investigation continues into whether rabbit was rescued or stolen

Beans the rabbit is getting a royal fussing over despite having allegedly been abandoned in a Surrey neighbourhood. Was he lagomorph-napped, or provided sanctuary by a guardian-angel animal rescuer?

The truth is out there. And according to the Newton resident who says he liberated this bunny from the mean streets of Clayton Heights, the Surrey RCMP is pulling out all stops to crack the case, with him as their prime suspect.

Warren Brundage say he runs a hydroponics business but in his spare time volunteers as an abandoned rabbit rescuer. He says it’s “pretty routine” for him to get calls about domestic rabbits running around on streets and once he “rescues” one, he takes it to a vet to get spayed or neutered. If the rabbit is not feral, he says, it’s then adopted out. “We’re pretty effective at finding new homes for these rabbits,” he says, adding he typically takes them to Surrey Animal Resource Centre, the SPCA or to a private rescue outfit.

“The problem is in the Lower Mainland is that people get rabbits, think that they’re going to be a wonderful pet, it doesn’t work out and they just abandon them, they just dump them.”

Brundage said he got a “call out” at the beginning of May about a stray rabbit in Clayton Heights and went out with a group to investigate. “A lot of people in the neighborhood were just outraged,” he said, claiming the rabbit had been abandoned and was out in the street. “Cars were avoiding it, he was getting chased by dogs. People were just really worried about this rabbit.”

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Brundage said he and the group didn’t find the bunny. He went out again by himself on a later date, he said, after receiving another call from someone in the neighborhood. He said he spent about an hour, at about 10:30 at night, looking for the rabbit up and down the street.

“A lot of people in the neighbourhood came out and said what are you doing, I said I’m here to catch that rabbit, they said it’s wonderful, finally somebody’s going to care for this rabbit. I caught the rabbit with the help of some of the people in the neighbourhood. Caught it on a public street about a block away from I guess the home where it had originated, where it had been abandoned.”

Brundage said he brought the bunny back to his place, late at night, and in the morning contacted the Surrey Animal Resource Centre. He said SARC told him they were full up and suggested Vancouver Rabbit Rescue could take it. So he contacted that outfit, he said, and was told they’d take the rabbit but asked him to keep it for a while because they too were full. Several days later, Brundage said, he got a call from people who said they owned the rabbit and want it back, to which he replied he was “entitled to take it to safety.”

The next night, at about 11:45 p.m., he got a call from the Surrey RCMP telling him they are considering arresting him for theft. “I said that’s crazy, because I caught the rabbit about a block away from these people’s home. There were a lot of people around in the neighbourhood helping me catch the rabbit.”

“I certainly didn’t enter their yard or any enclosed area,” he said. “This rabbit was just out on its own.” Brundage said the constable told him there’d be “big trouble” if there is evidence of him trespassing on the property.

“Anyway, he won’t go away. He’s investigating. He’s going through the neighbourhood, he’s interviewing witnesses.”

Brundage said a corporal at the Surrey RCMP detachment told him the constable “has a long list of witnesses he has to interview in this case.”

“Since then I’ve spoken to various constables, I’ve spoken to a corporal, I’ve spoken to his commanding officer who promised me that she was going to look into this and maybe see if she could bring it under control. She thought that all the resources that were being expended on a rabbit were maybe excessive.”

Brundage noted that a woman had been shot near his home and given the gang violence on Surrey’s streets, he’s perplexed by the constable’s tenacity in this matter.

“Why are all these resources being expended on a rabbit? I had my car vandalized, I had more than $5,000 damage done to my vehicle, they don’t come out to that any more,” he said. “They just won’t let it go.

“I have interacted with five officers from the Surrey RCMP on this case,” Brundage said. “I wonder if they have this many working on violent crimes?”

“That night, when I was in the neighbourhood, I was leaving my name and phone number with people. I certainly didn’t have the state of mind that I was stealing stuff. You don’t see people stealing where they’re leaving their name and phone number. I clearly wasn’t trying to steal anything.”

But Sherri Westby, the rabbit’s owner, claims her rabbit was taken from her property.

“You can talk to the RCMP officer,” she told the Now-Leader. “I’m not going to give any statement. I’m not going to talk to you about my rabbit or anything else. If you have any questions, go to the RCMP.”

Corporal Vanessa Munn, a media liaison officer with the Surrey RCMP, was aware of the case when contacted for comment.

“It’s an odd one,” she said. “The investigation is still ongoing.”

No charges have been laid. “It’s not resolved.

“It is ongoing. There is obviously two sides to this story. Basically it’s ongoing, there is a lot of things they’re going through.”

As for Brundage’s question why so much police energy is being expended on a rabbit, Munn replied that “the rabbit is still someone’s pet and they care about it. If you lost your dog, I’m sure you would want us to put resources into reuniting you with your pet, right.

“Ultimately what it comes down to is that if in fact it is happening, if in fact the rabbit does not belong to him, I can’t comment on that at this time because I’m not familiar enough with the investigation, but if the people who did report that the rabbit was stolen had the rabbit stolen then it is rightfully theirs and obviously we would like to get the rabbit back to its rightful owner if that is the case, if that is determined through the investigation.”

“It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out,” she said.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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