SHAKOPEE, Minn. — Prosecutors have charged the president of a rabbit rescue organization with animal cruelty and torture after police discovered 47 dead rabbits in Savage, according to a criminal complaint.
Authorities say police officers searched the Peacebunny Foundation barn on June 27 after they received a report of animal neglect. The foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that had been occupying the barn to house rabbits for about five years.
"Officers saw rabbits running loose in the barn and the smell of death, feces and urine was overwhelming. There was rabbit feces all over the barn and there was no area in the barn where there was not feces and rabbits running loose," the complaint said.
A day later, officers executed a search warrant at the barn with the assistance of Animal Humane Society Veterinarian Dr. Sara Lewis.
They found "several hundred rabbits of different ages running loose in the open barn area" and "huge piles of manure and straw with several of the rabbits having burrowed holes into the manure," according to the complaint.
Authorities say Dr. Lewis needed to immediately euthanize two of the rabbits due to severe health issues.
Court documents show Peacebunny Foundation President Stephanie Smith was charged with two felony counts of animal cruelty and torture. She is also charged with three misdemeanors for the mistreatment of animals.
After she was contacted by police, Smith "agreed that the current condition that the animals were in was not appropriate" and another group was planning to pick up the loose bunnies, according to the complaint.
Smith wrote in a blog post Saturday that Peacebunny Foundation is ceasing all programs and pledged not to obtain any new rabbits or spend foundation money on her legal defense. She's due to make her first court appearance Aug. 22.
Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar said the Humane Society is caring for the 200 or so rabbits found in the barn.
Smith's 18-year-old son, Caleb Smith, owns the foundation. His efforts to save rabbits had previously generated considerable media attention, including from KARE 11, People Magazine and NBC's "Today Show."
He wrote in a blog post Saturday that he was sorry "the last chapter seems so ugly right now."