The president of a Minnesota rabbit rescue organization faces charges of animal cruelty and torture after authorities found dead and injured animals at the nonprofit’s operation in the southern Twin Cities metro.
Authorities investigated the Peacebunny nonprofit in Savage in late June after receiving reports of animal neglect.
According to a court complaint filed in Scott County District Court, Savage police were contacted by a person concerned about the welfare of rabbits at the facility.
On June 28, authorities executed a search warrant at the site. They found 47 dead rabbits, several injured rabbits, empty food bowls and dirty conditions. There were an estimated 200 animals in the barn.
According to the complaint, Peacebunny Foundation president Stephanie Smith was at the location and told officials she agreed that the conditions were not appropriate.
Smith was charged with five counts related to animal cruelty and mistreatment. Her first court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 22.
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Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar told KARE 11 that a humane society is caring for the remaining rabbits.
Smith wrote on the Peacebunny website that the foundation is ceasing all public programs and working on a long-term care plan for the rabbits. She wrote that remaining foundation funds will be used to support other organizations “that work in animal-assisted crisis response.”
According to the complaint, the nonprofit foundation has operated for about five years.
The foundation was created by Smith's now-18-year-old son Caleb. In a post on the foundation website he apologized to supporters of the nonprofit.
The organization’s website said Peacebunny was started to train rabbits as comfort animals, keeping them in part on an island on the Mississippi River in addition to the facility in Savage.
Caleb Smith wrote a book called Peacebunny Island, and his efforts received widespread media attention.