Another Louisville rabbit crisis

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.

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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.

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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.

23 thoughts on “Another Louisville rabbit crisis

  1. What is the difference between the man putting them down and the shelter killing them? These are feral rabbits and unlikely to be healthy or tameable. Better they go for meat, a quick painless death and healthy meat for dogs, cats, and people.
    It is easy to get overwhelmed, and it doesn’t help when people dump animals on your property without your permission.

  2. Actually, the rabbits are not feral. Several have come to rescue and are doing very well as indoor companions.

    I believe the shelter death by painless injection is preferable to one performed by breaking the neck, etc., especially by a person who has demonstrated no concern for their welfare. This person’s animals were under government seizure for neglect/abuse and therefore he lost rights to do as he pleased. He broke the law further by continuing to kill the rabbits while they were under seizure, using donated food to capture them.

    I agree that people dumping the extra rabbits did not help, but I have NO sympathy for a person who would allow the rabbits to live in these conditions without food, water, or proper shelter. He has also filled in burrows and denied food/water so they become weak and easier to catch.

    This person has had this “problem” for many years and has not shown compassion for the rabbits.

    (I also don’t agree that using the meat is “better” but I’m sure our opinions differ. By that logic we ought to eat all the unwanted dogs and cats in the shelters too.)

  3. This is a hundred million times more heinous and disgusting than 2 girls and a cup! It makes me furious. That evil guy should have to go without food and water and live under a piece of metal and get stuck in a trap and be thrown out with the garbage.

  4. So where are the pictures of the injured or near death rabbits ?? I dont see any sick, injured or even skinny rabbits so it looks like they were getting the proper care needed until of course you animal rights activist weirdos decided there was something wrong and had to step in, why not leave people be and go after the people who really are truly abusing animals. Your blog and pictures show no real evidence of neglect nor abuse

  5. We, as a rescue organization, have nothing to do with which cases are deemed needing intervention. The government of Louisville, KY, contacted us for help in their seizure of rabbits who were not provided food, water, medical care, or adequate shelter. Our participation is to advise them on how to capture the rabbits and to accept some into rescue (we do not even physically go into the yard nor handle the animals until they are already back at the shelter). We have no authority to do anything but accept seized animals from the shelter into our organization to treat them and find them new homes.

    I’m sorry if our on-site volunteer’s photos do not convince you of the stumbling, ill, hunched rabbits and torn ears from fighting and ear mites with crust that filled entire ear canals. These are not photos for confiscation (that is the job of the animal control organization who contacted us), but rather pictures documenting what our volunteer found when she visited (to provide hay and get a sense of their condition) to then share with others in our organization.

    I’m sure you’re an expert in “weirdos” and what “real abuse” is. What are you doing to alleviate the suffering of the many species with which we share this planet?

    Thanks for your anonymous opinion, since you are apparently afraid to get behind your inflammatory response. I chose to allow the comments to appear because I want other people to understand the opposition we face on a daily basis.

  6. Thank you for allowing the comments to appear, I mirror your sentiments. Thank you also for your very thoughtful and informative response.

  7. I don’t see anyreason why the government is taking into consideration the welfare of these rabbits when it doesn’t even take into consideration the walefare of its people. The pictures, as stated above, showno signs of abuse and if they were going to b used for an article/blog then they should have been taken by a professional not a busy-body poking their nose where it didn’t belong. The rabbits owner had a righ to do with his/her rabbits as he/she saw fit, the government gave him that right, and people who don’t know how to care for a colonized herd of rabbits should keep to their own business.

  8. 1. If you are dissatisfied with your government, you can vote, contact your representatives, attend meetings, run for office, etc. This post is about a legal action, such as it is, and in which you are not apparently involved (except as a busybody?).
    2. A blog is a personal account of what is happening in a person’s life, a person’s opinions, a person’s experiences. If you have something to contribute, write your own.
    3. Our volunteer was requested and given permission to be at the location to perform a visual assessment of the ability to capture and treat the rabbits, not to give merit to the already-enacted seizure. Documentation of the original reasons for gov’t involvement was created by that governing body and is not what is represented on this blog.
    4. People stop having rights when they trample on someone else’s. In this case, basic animal welfare was not adequate.
    5. Would you let your rabbits live in this mudhole without food or water?

  9. This person did not care for these rabbits, I am not arguing that fact. But, please do not compare rabbits to cats and dogs. Rabbits are an agricultural commodity and people eat rabbits. Yes you can have rabbits as pets, but you can also have a pet pigs or cow and unless your a strict vegetaraian you eat those critters too. Population control in rabbits is “Beat the Habit Eat more Rabbit”

  10. There is no difference between cats and dogs and rabbits and cows except the artificial cultural one we’ve assigned to them. Just because local laws protect a dog from being your dinner doesn’t make him any more loving and pet-worthy than a rabbit. There is NO logic to prevent us from eating an unwanted dog.

    (I stopped eating animals when I finally came to terms with this hypocrisy that had been shoved down my throat, so to speak, by my own culture.)

  11. I don’t see any sick or skinny rabbits, the pictures do not show the hoppers. How do we know that there is no food in them. It looks to me that rabbits are eating out of them. I would like to see some kind of evidence that the rabbits were not given some kind of food. There HAD to be some sort of food for these rabbits, or they would of been nothing but skin and bones. They appear to look healthly.

    I don’t understand why rabbits, who have been used as food for so many years, have to be just pets! People eat rabbits. People eat cows, chickens, pigs, and lamb too. It makes me wonder if the “animal Rights” people get their way, soon we’ll all be forced to give up all meat.

    It looks to me that someone seen that this guy was colony raising these rabbits to eat. God forbid anyone eat a rabbit. Someone just had to do something. I think that they should have let this man eat HIS rabbits! They got put down any way. They should have butchered these rabbits and fed them to the homeless, if the guy couldn’t eat them. Their are so many starving people out there. But rabbits are to cute to eat right.

    Maybe a few pictures showing a skinny rabbit, injured rabbit, or a rabbit with ear mites may have made your case.

    As for shelter, they burror, that is part of colony raising rabbits. It is to be natural. So they did have shelter, under ground. Who are you to say that rabbits would be more happy with anything else. They would have dug a burrow anyway if anything any was

    God put animals on this earth for us to eat them, who is anyone to take someones GOD given right away.

  12. Ok, once again, this is not an “evidence” set of pictures, so you all can give it up. I’m sorry I don’t meet your standard of proof when documenting our experience with a rescue situation which is not meant to prove anything. Take it up with the seizing officers if you want to beat this into the ground.

    I am not advocating that we outlaw eating animals (my personal feelings aside). But I still don’t understand why you all think there is some reason it’s ok to eat these guys and not the unwanted dogs and cats.

    Your version of god is interesting, but I don’t agree. Prove to me some “god given rights” and I’ll think about it. There are an awful lot of Biblical laws and stories that we conveniently ignore today. Check out some of the religious opinions on God’s intention for us to be vegetarian per the ideal Garden of Eden arrangement if you really want to argue this “right.”

    The neighbors complained because this person had an out of control population that was receiving inadequate care. He was filling in the sheltering burrows, denying food, and shooting at the weak ones who struggled on the barren surface as a result. Pardon me for caring about the ones we were allowed to save.

  13. I find many of these comments quite disturbing,and the disregard and disrespect for life saddens me.
    Why doesn’t every animal have a right to humane treatment, whether or not the animal is going to be raised for meat, (regardless of my feelings about it)? We ought to be thanking these volunteers who care enough to spend their time helping with these horrible situations. So, a heartfelt thank you to the volunteers, and wishes for a peaceful New Year in which people show more kindness to animals and each other. I’m now going to go make a contribution to the HRS.

  14. My husband and I sometimes ride our bikes in this neighborhood. This had been going on for several years that we know of. We’ve purchased extra carrots and greens and thrown them over the fence in the past.

    Yes, the conditions are actually worse than the pictures appear. The rabbits do not have access to food and water, and have extremely inadequate shelter. For those not familiar with the climate here, the summers are regularly dry and hot, with temps between 85-90 F. Spring and fall are rainy, and these rabbit sit under the little shelter that there is in the mud. It was obvious when we drove by that the rabbits had been fighting (damaged ears and coats). There have been times in the past where all the rabbits were suddenly gone – whether for food or prior confiscation, we don’t know.

    Finally, this is in a neighborhood, not a rural area. I’m quite certain that the neighbors don’t appreciate the condition of the rabbits or of the yard – or the house for that matter. In fact, based on your post, it was the neighbors, whose quality of life and property values were affected, who complained – not a “busy-body”.

  15. Pingback: Amy’s Gripping Commentary » Cruelty roundup

  16. These rabbits should have been left to the owner. The bias in this article is astounding – it is no better to waste money and resources transporting these animals to the shelter just to be euthanized rather than letting the owner kill them on site and utilize them for his own meat. STupid beauracratic nonsense. Death by cervical displacement is less painful than death by injection – believing otherwise is a lie.

  17. I would have to side with the owner on this one. Those rabbits are there because there is food and water. They have shelter in borrows underground. If there was no food and water, the rabbits would just borrow under the fence and leave. In most “contained” rabbit colonies that I am aware of the borrows go well beyond the fence line, but the rabbits only surface within the fence for the security and the easy food and water.

    Could he have done more? Sure, he could have shoveled the poop up to make it look nicer. He also could have built cute little houses, which the rabbits might use during the day, but would turn to borrows for safety anyway.

    His crime, in my opinion, was not poor treatment of the animals. His crime was raising a colony of 80 rabbits in an urban area where it would affect the lives of his neighbors. The would be smell of course and concern from those who may not understand colony rabbits.

    I believe there are city laws against maintaining a large quanity of livestock within city limits. This was likely the premise for removing the animals, not inhumane treatment. If this is the case, I agree that the law should be upheld and he should lose the animals.

    Animal abuse? Not in an escapable yard, with double that much space undergound.

  18. This site does more to harm animals than help them by supporting government intrusion and demeaning natural ways of keeping animals (as in this natural rabbit colony). You should be promoting the husbandry of animals in a natural setting and using them for fur and meat. It is their best hope for survival. Making pets of them or letting their breed die out in favor of purely commercial / industrial breeds is the shame.
    Also, your example about dog-eating shows your ignorance of the food chain and nature. You show no understanding of the way carnivores, omnivores and herbivores interact in the food chain and you certainly seem to misunderstand the role of humans in that natural setting.

  19. There is nothing ‘natural’ about domesticated animals.

    As far as the role of humans in the food chain, they are omnivores (please don’t start arguing about teeth shape and eye position and digestive tract alignment; you can argue herbivore and carnivore all day by the same data too), and therefore should be able to eat ‘anything.’ The only reason we differentiate a dog from a rabbit in Western culture is because our culture tells us one is a pet and one is ok to be livestock. Other cultures behave differently, but they aren’t any less human or misunderstanding their human role.

  20. i’m not going to argue the condition of these rabits – cause i obviously didn’t see them…
    but, if you have a simi-wild rabbit that got sick or injured and is suffering, the easiest and least stressfull way (for that rabbit and the whole colony) to “catch” it is with a rifle.
    also, rabbits fill in the entrance to their own burrows – and often you won’t see them open again till a 3wk baby pops it’s head out. a filled in burrow usually means a momma has babys hidden inside… a shovel full or two of dirt would keep them out a whole of 5 minutes if they actually needed in.
    and if the city came up to him and said ‘you have too many rabbits – they need to go.’ what exactly did you expect him to do with a colony of feral meat rabbits? sell them to pet stores? properly done, dislocateing the neck is very quick and causes instantanious death – plus it doesn’t pump the body full of toxic chemicals rendering the meat useless. at least let him harvest his rabbits to be done with them! i can’t imagine you “rescueing” nearly 80 rabbits by chaseing them around, causeing them stress, leaving young kits to starve in the burrows, and then killing – and wasteing -nearly ALL of the animals you were supposed to be helping.
    i feel people should be more respectfull of the animals that must be killed – at least make their death usefull – and their meat appreciated!

  21. I noted your email was “the12catlady,” so surely you’d appreciate if we were respectful of your cats in a similar manner once they’re no longer useful? Wouldn’t want to waste them.

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