Protection of pet rabbits during program to control feral populations

Warragamba Panorama

Protection of pet rabbits during program to control feral populations

Posted on: 17.02.2017

Council is participating in an annual program led by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Greater Sydney Local Land Services (LLS) to reduce and manage impacts caused by wild rabbits. This year’s program involves the coordinated national release of a new strain of the previously released Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) Virus at over 200 sites across NSW in late February and early March. These sites include Tahmoor Park in the Wollondilly Local Government Area (LGA), where local residents have reported significant sightings of wild rabbits.     

The DPI has advised that the current vaccine for the RHD virus has been shown to be effective against the new strain to be released (known as RHDV1 K5). However, the DPI also advises that domestic rabbit owners should consult their local veterinarian and follow their vaccination recommendations for prevention and protection from the RHDV1 K5 virus.

The Australian Veterinary Association recommends that:

  • All domestic rabbit owners vaccinate their rabbits prior to the release of RHDV1 K5 and/or ensure their animal’s vaccinations are up-to-date. 
  • Domestic rabbits be kept in insect proof enclosures as additional protection due to distribution of the virus occurring by airborne insects.

Further information and advice from this Association is available at

Council strongly encourages any resident with domestic rabbits to ensure that vaccinations for the RHD Virus are up to date prior to the release of the new strain of the virus as a precaution.

Brad Staggs, Council’s Manager Environmental Services states that “Council is placing a high priority on addressing any community concerns over the release of the virus as well as any harm it may cause to domestically owned rabbits”.

To help inform the community and reduce risks to pet rabbits, Council:

  • Has produced a Frequently asked Questions document based on information provided by the Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services which is available on Council’s website. 

According to Mr Staggs, “Council is participating in the project in response to concerns raised by local residents over impacts caused by the increased presence of wild rabbits within the Wollondilly LGA”. 

The NSW Department of Primary Industries has stated in relation to this matter:

“The European rabbit is Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest animal, costing more than $200 million in lost agricultural production annually and wreaking havoc on the environment and biodiversity, affecting 304 nationally-threatened plant and animal species.”

Residents are encouraged to contact Quentin Hart, Manager Invasive Species Strategy and Planning, from the Department of Primary Industries on T: 0428 763 153 for any specific enquiries regarding the release of the virus program and on-going programs of the Department to control the impacts of wild rabbits.

Residents should contact Council’s Environmental Assessment Planner, David Henry on (02) 4677 1100 for information on Council’s involvement in the Program.