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Just Ducky : Evicted Animals Get New Homes in County Parks

March 12, 1989|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

New homes have been found for the rabbits, chickens and ducks that were evicted in January from their unofficial refuge in a Marina del Rey flood control basin.

Bruce Richards, assistant director of the county Department of Animal Care and Control, said 355 animals have already been relocated to several county parks. Most of the rabbits have been moved to Frank G. Bonelli Regional County Park in San Dimas.

Chickens and ducks have been relocated to other parks, including Harbor Regional Park in Wilmington and William S. Hart Park in Newhall. Some people have adopted animals, after agreeing that they would not be harmed or used as food, Richards said.

The remaining 500 to 700 animals will be relocated to those same parks, but they are being removed gradually, mostly because it is difficult for the volunteers to catch them.

Relocated by June

"We've tried to catch some of the ducks and geese, but they take off for the water right away," said Irene Ashby, a spokeswoman for Marina Sanctuary Inc. The nonprofit group of volunteers cares for the animals and is assisting the animal control department in gathering them.

Richards said, however, he expects all of the animals to be relocated by June.

"The animals are being removed safely and humanely," he said. "People have put a lot of energy into it."

Ashby said her group is pleased that new homes have been found for the animals, but is still upset over the decision to remove them.

In January, the Los Angeles County Small Craft Harbor Commission voted unanimously to remove the animals from the 10.5-acre Oxford Flood Control Basin. Nearby residents had complained of offensive smells and noises, and county officials feared that the rabbits' burrowing could undermine the basin.

Rabbits Multiplied

The animals had been accumulating in the basin for about 10 years, ever since some people decided it was a good place to dump unwanted bunnies, baby chicks and ducklings that had been given to children for Easter or Christmas.

The animals, particularly the rabbits, quickly multiplied, and the volunteers started feeding and caring for them in 1982, providing more than 300 pounds of food a day. No one knows how many animals were in the basin, but Richards said there may have been as many as 2,500 rabbits and 1,200 chickens and ducks at one time.

Ashby said that although the animal population is being reduced weekly, the remaining animals must still be fed until they are relocated. She said that since the publicized eviction notice, donations to the group have stopped.

"We still need about $106 a day to feed the remaining animals, and we just don't have enough money," Ashby said.

(Donations may be sent to Marina Sanctuary, 4130 Wade St., Los Angeles, Calif. 90066.)

Despite the publicized eviction, people are still dumping animals in the basin. With Easter two weeks away, Ashby fears the problem could get worse.

"Some of our volunteers went to a pet store and saw that they are already selling bunnies for $2 each," Ashby said. "That's cheaper than buying an Easter basket. We figure by Easter night, when the kids grow tired of the animals, we'll see a significant increase in dumping."

The county Department of Beaches and Harbors, which oversees the basin, is considering installing a second fence about three feet inside of an exterior fence to contain any new animals that are dumped.

"That would at least keep the new animals confined in an area and make it easier for us to collect them and relocate them," Richards said.

Ashby hopes that the state Legislature will ban the sale of bunnies and baby chicks as pets.

"I think it's criminal to allow pet store stores to sell bunnies and baby chicks," she said. "There are just too many irresponsible people that just don't care."

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