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Local teen creates sanctuary to care for rescued and endangered rabbits

Peacebunny Island is the brainchild of 16-year-old Caleb Smith, and the focus of this week's "Communities that KARE."

NEWPORT, Minn. — Video courtesy of Peacebunny Island.

Eight years ago, a little boy living in the Twin Cities wanted a pet, but ended up going down the rabbit hole to find a new love for conservation. Now the impact he's making is getting national attention.

Peacebunny Island is not a land 'far, far away' like in some fairytale. This 22-acre sanctuary is just a hop, skip, and a jump away on the South St. Paul side of the Mississippi River. Its sole purpose is to help rescued, domestic, and endangered rabbits like the American breed, which has less than two thousand registered in the world.

Sixteen-year-old Caleb Smith is the young man behind the bunny paradise. "The idea started when I was 8 years old. I was looking for a pet rabbit. There were 362 of them on Craigslist here in the Twin Cities shortly after Easter. I wanted to prevent the pet abandonment cycle," he said.

Caleb immersed himself in learning about rabbits and started educating people to help protect the endangered breeds. Soon, Caleb's dream turned into a dual business and nonprofit.

The teen trains bunnies to be comfort animals going to places like senior centers and hospices. "The rabbits are that one step into bringing kindness and sometimes solving a broken heart. We just bring comfort to people and bring some joy and what we call 'hoppiness,'" explained Caleb. 

Caleb's journey is only beginning; he's been featured in People Magazine and published a book. "It's really the journey of how I grew through the business and the life lessons," said Caleb and added it's also about "these heartfelt connections from the different events that we could go to."

So what's next? Caleb is preparing for events at Peacebunny Island and his farm, Peacebunny Cottage, this summer. We did ask if he had a favorite rabbit. He told us, "My favorite is whoever I'm with at that moment."

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