It’s Easter weekend and Los Angeles rabbit rescuers are at war with senior management of LA Animal Services for not responding to what the rescuers are calling a “horrific, large scale case of rabbit abuse.” Time is running out for sixty-five sick and dying rabbits and one frustrated local rescue group is accusing LA’s top animal control official of “stonewalling and inaction.”
In late March, the Bunny World Foundation (BWF) and the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) investigated an unlicensed breeding operation housing one hundred and twenty-seven rabbits in the backyard of a private home in Sherman Oaks, California. The rescue groups claim that the breeders were warehousing animals in unsanitary and cruel conditions (see video). “The bunnies were up to their necks in their own urine and feces,” said Lejla Hadzimuratovic, president of BWF. “Some were dying, many had tumors and visible infections. They were all crammed into tiny, filthy, cages, stacked ten feet high, and they couldn’t even move.”
Unfettered by enforcement, unlicensed pet factories are common in and around Los Angeles, the second largest market for mill-bred pets in the country. Often passing as small backyard breeders, they typically use the Internet to operate illegal cash businesses under the radar of the IRS and the Department of Building and Safety. The animals they sell are not sterilized and their offspring end up flooding LA’s already overcrowded shelter system.
When neighbors or an animal protection organization gets wind of a location where animals are being warehoused and sold, animal control agencies, not having enough cage space, must coordinate with local rescuers to save the animals. Ideally, animal control agencies will take in the animals, footing the bill for emergency medical care and sterilization. Then small rescue organizations will pick up the animals to care for their longer term needs and place them in foster care while they attempt to find permanent homes.
But that’s not the way it works in Los Angeles where the relationships between animal control officials and rescue organizations have become openly hostile.
The Bunny World Foundation told Examiner that the rabbit breeder would only surrender a limited number of the rabbits.
“During our visit to the breeding facility, the breeder surrendered fifty-seven rabbits to us. We expected LAAS to confiscate the remaining rabbits—after all, they have the power to do that; we don’t! We found out that animal control inspected the facility over two months ago! How could they leave those rabbits there, knowing they were dying?”
Furious, Ms. Hadzimuratovic wrote to Brenda Barnette, the general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services ( LAAS), demanding help to rescue the remaining rabbits. LAAS sent an officer to visit the facility and, according to the breeder, gave it a “clean bill of health.” They did not remove any animals from the facility. In an email exchange shared with Examiner, Ms. Barnette responded to BWF, “the rabbits are fine where they are.”
Ms. Barnette also warned Ms. Hadzimuratovic not to interfere with an ongoing LAAS investigation.
Ms. Hadzimuratovic says:
“It seems like this bureaucrat is spending valuable time arguing with rescuers instead of doing her job, making sure these animals are no longer tortured in that facility. We assured the department that if they confiscated the remaining rabbits, we would find placement for them. But LAAS took in only five of the rabbits and then euthanized one of them. We would have taken that rabbit. They had no right to kill him. This is a major breach of trust with the rescue community and a violation of state law.”
With the breeder refusing to surrender the remaining rabbits voluntarily, only LAAS has the jurisdiction to confiscate them and bring them to safety.
In 2012, after a two-year CAPS undercover investigation of Los Angeles’ pet stores and the puppy mills and pet factories that supply them, an anti-puppy mill ordinance was passed. It is illegal to sell factory-bred dogs, cats or rabbits in LA pet stores. To this date, the law is not being enforced by LAAS. Further legislation is needed to regulate breeders, preventing them from selling over the Internet and subjecting them to routine inspections so that situations such as this one can be controlled and breeders violating basic animal protection laws can be penalized.
Contrary to what LAAS management is claiming, these rabbits are not "fine where they are." They need to be rescued immediately.
While these Easter bunnies suffer in their cages full of feces and urine, LAAS bureaucrats will continue to stall, focusing their attention on colored eggs and chocolate rabbits.
Emails to LAAS were answered with a formula response.
What you can do to help:
Send an email to Brenda Barnette, general manager of LAAS at Brenda.barnette@LAcity.org asking her to rescue these rabbits immediately and to not kill any of them.