I’m taking this from our news release on November 19. I don’t have a post-holiday update yet.
For a second time, Indiana HRS was contacted by Metro Animal Services of Louisville KY for assistance with a rabbit problem. A backyard meat breeder had been “in business” for decades, and they were now moving to shut him down. The rabbit population had grown to alarming proportions over the years (both from the yard rabbits breeding and people tossing unwanted pet rabbits over the fence), and neighborhood complaints were mounting.
One of our volunteers visited the site to check on the rabbits, and found a deeply disturbing situation. The yard was totally devoid of grass or other vegetation, basically a mud pit riddled with burrow openings. There was minimal shelter above ground, just a few pieces of corrugated metal propped up on logs. Feed hoppers appeared to be empty, water pans were dry. Some rabbits that were sitting out in the yard were obviously injured, a few appeared near death.
At first glance only about 30 rabbits could be counted, but after hay was tossed over the fence they started emerging from the tunnels and the count quickly grew to approximately 80. Over the next few days the volunteer continued to bring hay to these hungry rabbits, with the hope of earning their trust so that it would be easier to catch them when the time came to remove them from the yard. But within a week there was a visible reduction in the number of rabbits, despite the fact that MAS had not begun the confiscation yet… the count appeared to now be no higher than 50.
The volunteer noticed that there were humane traps in the yard with rabbits caught inside them, and that they had been baited with the donated hay. After talking to the property owner, it was learned that he was catching the rabbits and killing them on site rather than turning them over to animal control. The officer in charge of the case was notified, the owner was taken back to court and ordered to cease the slaughter. From that point on, all rabbits trapped by the property owner were turned over to MAS.
As of last week, the owner had brought in 40 rabbits to the shelter. Of those 40, only 10 have been released to us, the others were immediately euthanized.
The deadline for this case to be resolved (meaning all rabbits are cleared from the property) is Thanksgiving. Best estimate is that only a few are still alive in the yard, but there is a small hope that one last group will have a chance to survive this nightmare.
Update, as of end of November: We have taken in sixteen rabbits from this case; the rest that made it to the shelter were euthanized.