Last updated 14 October 2017

Summary of the control agents used against wild rabbits in Australia

Wild Rabbits are deemed under the Australian law to be pests (vertebrae pests). They are mainly killed by methods that would be considered inhumane and illegal under anti-cruelty laws if they were applied to companion animals.

It is lawful in Australia for rabbits to be poisoned, infected with disease, hunted, or caught in steel-jawed traps. Species deemed as ‘pests’ may be excluded from the operation of the anti-cruelty acts and be regulated through a Code of Practice, or their harm may be authorised by another piece of legislation. For example, the most common rabbit control options aim to eliminate rabbits using poisons, fumigants or other specialised methods such as warren ripping, shooting or trapping.

The following are the control agents used against rabbits which also affect companion animals:

Biocontrol agents:

  • Myxematosis

In 1950 the CSIRO released the myxoma virus. Myxoma is a disease that is known among vets to cause immense suffering to the animal; affected rabbits can take a fortnight to die and treatment is futile, which is why euthanasia is usually recommended.

Classic myxomatosis symptoms start with runny eyes. The genitals are also usually swollen. It quickly progresses to become severe conjunctivitis which causes blindness, along with lumpy swellings on the head and on the body. The eyes become swollen shut due to excessive amounts of thick pus discharge.

If an unvaccinated pet rabbit catches myxomatosis, it will almost certainly die. Vaccination is a vital part of protective measures which are urged to be taken by vets outside Australia. Although myxoma vaccines exist in the UK and Europe, they are not allowed in Australia.

  • Calicivirus

In 1996 the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV1), a calicivirus, was brought to Australia as a rabbit biocontrol agent.

The disease infects many organs including the lungs, gut and liver of the rabbit. This in turn causes acute liver damage which can kill the rabbit within 48 hours. There is currently one vaccine released in Australia used on domesticated pet rabbits, known commercially as Cylap HVD. This vaccine however is not 100% effective and does not protect against the RHDV2 strain of the rabbit calicivirus which was discovered in Canberra in 2015, and later confirmed in Victoria and NSW.

A new Korean strain of calicivirus, K5 virus, has been released in Autumn 2017. Cylap HVD vaccine is recommended for pet rabbits. However, as with the RHDV1, it is not guaranteed to protect the rabbits from infection or death.


  • Pindone

Rabbits who ingest Pindone show signs of lethargy, depression followed by anorexia, anaemia, and bleeding.  Bleeding around the nose, mouth, eyes and anus with bloody faeces are common symptoms. Pain and discomfort set in due to bleeding of the internal organs. These symptoms last 10-14 days before death. Pindone restricts the routine synthesis of vitamin K-dependent blood clotting factors in the liver which damages the normal daily function and repair to blood vessels.


  • 1080

Common signs of 1080 poisoning in rabbits include lethargy, laboured respiration and increased sensitivity to noise and disturbance. Convulsions occur accompanied by gasping and squealing. Death follows 3-4 hours later.


Summary taken from

Ethical Vegan Earth Research Inc. Campaign: Down the Rabbit Holes