Here’s a story for you. What would you think about a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) that deleted hundreds of negative comments from their Facebook page? Or an organization that continued to keep animals in their shelter, charging the owners $6000 per day for their care, when a suitable foster facility with someone experienced in caring for the animals had been approved? Would you be curious about what’s really going on?
Sadly, it’s no fairytale! Here are the circumstances:
Late at night on March 16-17, a police officer, responding to a false alarm on the street, noticed some rabbits next door. Under the impression that the community had a two-pet limit, including rabbits, animal control was called in. The rabbits were seized and handed over to the Sacramento SPCA while the case was investigated. They remain there now until the parties go to court. The rabbits were in perfect health. Other than the belief that the community had a two-pet limit, the family was only cited because they contract with a pet waste removal service and the company had failed to show up that week.
If you’re wondering why this family had a lot of rabbits – approximately 286, according to the Sacramento SPCA – they were being raised by two young girls for their 4-H project. It was not a hoarding situation and, according to Misty Polasik and other rabbit experts assisting with the case, there was some confusion about the law that applies to rabbits in California.
“Folsom is zoned special agricultural. And rabbits are an agricultural animal. They are considered to be livestock under California law,” Misty said. “The two-pet limit doesn’t apply to agricultural animals. The family can even keep horses on the property if they want to.”
Misty explained that rabbits have many purposes besides being pets. “4-H kids and other people raise them for shows, county fairs, and other exhibitions. People raise them for meat and for their pelts. There are also culls – animals that you don’t want to use in your breeding program. These rabbits can go to zoos to feed wild animals. Dog and cat food makers love to buy rabbits for pet food because they are raised hormone-free. The California Condor Recovery program buys rabbits from rabbit breeders all the time to feed their condors.”
Some of the rabbits being raised by the girls were also heritage breeds or breeds that are close to extinction. According to rabbit expert Michael William, many people don’t realize that domestic animals can become extinct – it’s not just wildlife.
The rabbit community across the United States has responded with outrage to the seizure of the rabbits. They have left countless negative comments on the Facebook page for the Sacramento SPCA – which have been deleted. They are also running an auction, Support Youth Breeder Legal Fees Online Auction to raise money for the legal funds the family will need to go to court and get their rabbits back. And you can contribute to Youth Breeder Legal Fees on this GoFundMe page.
When the rabbits arrived at the SPCA they were in pristine condition. They were clean and healthy. There was never any question that they had always received exceptional care. The Sacramento SPCA’s own veterinarians stated that ALL of the rabbits were in good or excellent condition. They had been lovingly raised by the girls. While 286 rabbits may sound like a lot, people who are knowledgeable about rabbits say that it’s not. “We don’t talk about rabbits in numbers,” Misty said. “We talk about stacks,” she said, referring to the stacks of crates (about 24” x “36”) that house a rabbit. She said the girls had about two dozen does, or female rabbits, and their kits (baby rabbits). This is not a large number of rabbits for hobbyists to keep. The kits will be ready to sell by the time they are 8 weeks old, leaving just the adults.
Misty runs her own rabbitry and offered to foster the seized rabbits. As an expert with the facilities to keep rabbits, she would be an ideal choice. Folsom animal control officers visited her property and seemed to approve the idea. However, nearly a week later, the rabbits are still at the Sacramento SPCA which is set up to hold dogs and cats – but not rabbits. They are keeping the rabbits at a cost of $6000 per day.
Both Michael William and Misty said that since these rabbits have been raised for shows, they eat a special diet. The family took the rabbits’ own special food, hay for bedding, and supplies to the SPCA when they were seized because they didn’t want them to have to use inferior products. Yet the SPCA began asking for food and cash donations on their page as soon as they took custody of the rabbits. It’s hard not to form the opinion that the Sacramento SPCA is using the rabbits as a cash machine and without regard for what’s best for the animals.
All of the news stories that have appeared about the rabbits refer to the situation as a “rescue,” which is absolutely incorrect. The rabbits were not rescued. They were in a loving home being cared for by 4-H kids well-versed in rabbit care. The rabbits were seized because of an incorrect interpretation of the law applying to animals. Because of this incorrect interpretation and seizure, this family has had its life turned upside down. The girls are getting a terrible introduction to how this country treats people in agriculture. And the rabbits are in the hands of an SPCA that seems more interested in money than what’s best for animals.
As Michael William said, “These are 4-H kids. What’s the lesson being learned here?”