As our members and friends, you are tender-hearted humans capable of feeling great joy when you open your home to a rabbit that has never been loved. You grieve when they pass, lick your wounds, then risk your heart anew by taking another “cast-off” under your wings. You are among the most courageous of humans because you expose yourself to the sadness of learning how these defenseless creatures were mistreated before we rescued them. So, you will be deeply saddened to hear this story of yet another confiscation.
Yesterday, Thursday, February 25th, the Humane Society of Missouri removed numerous animals, including 133 rabbits of many breeds from a woman who was breeding them on her property near St. Clair, Missouri, in Franklin County. For the most part, the rabbits were housed individually in outdoor cages, completely exposed to the weather. The cages had wire bottoms and were stacked high. Some rabbits had food, but the water bowls were frozen solid. They lived in filth.
Throughout the afternoon, rescuers placed the rabbits in individual carriers and loaded them into vans for the hour-long drive to the Humane Society’s Missouri headquarters on Macklind Avenue, near Forest Park. When the first wave arrived at 7pm, more than a dozen of our volunteers were there to meet them, along with Dr. Linda Beisswenger of Hope Animal Hospital in Fenton, her Hospital Administrator Leah Canada and her Veterinary Assistant Rennie Bodien.
One-by-one, the rabbits were carried to a triage room and examined by Dr. Beisswenger and Dr. Matthew Shivelbine, a vet for the Humane Society. There was one new mother and her infants. The rabbits were wet with urine, their fur stained yellow and they smelled. Most were thin, many had ear mites, some had overgrown teeth, a few had abscesses. The long-haired rabbits were terribly matted.
Their age, sex, weight and medical problems were documented. Our volunteers then carried them to a room where we trimmed nails, dosed with Revolution for ear mites and used cotton swabs to scoop debris from the ears of rabbits with the worst mite infestations. The most dangerously-dehydrated rabbits were moved to an area where they received Sub-Q fluids. Their last stop was one of three rooms where cages had been prepared for them with rugs, litter boxes, hay, food and water. The Humane Society had emptied out its lunchroom and set up dog-crate cages on tables and under tables to house most of the rabbits. Additional cages were set up in two smaller rooms.
Interestingly, none of the rabbits reacted badly to the triage process. There was no aggression, no biting. We believe they knew that they had reached a place of safety and comfort. Once they were settled in cages, some stretched out and fell asleep; some huddled in their litter boxes. The rabbits were so dehydrated that they emptied their water bowls repeatedly throughout the evening. It was about 1 a.m. when we departed Macklind.
The bad situation came to light when the Humane Society received an anonymous phone call. The society told the breeder to correct the problems but, when nothing changed, the Humane Society contacted the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and deputies helped the Humane Society execute the confiscation. Besides the rabbits, there were a few dogs, cats, goats, hens, roosters, pigeons, doves, ducks and a guinea pig.
There will be a court hearing tomorrow. A judge will award custody to the Humane Society or return the animals to the breeder. Assuming the Humane Society gets custody, we will be working hand-in-hand with the Humane Society to get the rabbits adopted. Please pray that the judge sees fit to release all the animals to the Humane Society and NOT return any of them to the "owner".
It is mind-boggling how the actions of one irresponsible individual can upset the lives of so many responsible individuals. The staff of the Humane Society is overwhelmed with the task of caring for 133 rabbits. By comparison, the Polk County confiscation of 2008 numbered 43 rabbits; the Stone County confiscation of 2009 numbered 87. We are volunteers with the responsibilities of work, family and our own pets, yet we are obliged to assist because the confiscation was massive and because the employees of the Humane Society, while experts with dogs and cats, are not as familiar with the needs of rabbits.
UPDATE ON FRANKLIN COUNTY CONFISCATION:
The 133 bunnies are in the Humane Society headquarters, 1201 Macklind Ave., St. Louis. Daily care is being provided by our volunteers and Humane Society staff. We are especially shorthanded on weekdays! We realize that everyone works but if you can lend a hand, weekdays or weekends, we will be immensely grateful.
We are establishing a task force to help with this crisis. If you can commit time, morning or afternoon, weekdays or weekends, to feed, water and clean cages, e-mail Melissa Bevington: firstname.lastname@example.org. Melissa is a MO HRS member and mom to Kenny, the tri-pod flemmie. Type “Confiscation Task Force” in the subject line. Tell Melissa when you are available and your phone numbers. She will prepare a daily schedule.
Here are "new & improved" instructions for volunteers:
1. Contact Melissa Bevington email@example.com Melissa is our member coordinating our volulnteers. You must be at least 16 years
old to help.
2. Do NOT go to Macklind before 10 a.m.
3. Everyone, whether you are a new volunteer or a veteran, must go to the front desk and announce that you are a House Rabbit Society
volunteer for the bunnies.
4. If you are a new volunteer, ask if there is a House Rabbit Society volunteer on site. If there is not, ask the supervisor to pair you with a
Humane Society staffer working with the bunnies.
5. Everyone must complete a volunteer form (one time only). Everyone must sign in and sign out. You will find the volunteer forms and
check-in forms in the lunchroom, where most of the bunnies are housed.
6. You can stay as late as 6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. On Saturdays you can stay until 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday until 4:30 p.m.
The court hearing to decide custody of the animals is 2 p.m. Wednesday in Union, MO. The first hearing was ontinued when the breeder requested a court-appointed lawyer. We will let you know what happens.
Delightful side-note: One of the Franklin County Sheriff's Deputies who aided the confiscation brought his family to our foster home Friday and adopted a black mini-rex bunny!
(At the appropriate time, with the permission of the Humane Society we hope to have photos taken by House Rabbit Society members who were on the scene at the Humane Society.)
Here are some links to the media coverage of yesterday’s confiscation. You will find photos and the most accurate coverage on the Humane Society site.
Humane Society site:
Video – Channel 5
Text – Channel 5
Video – Channel 2