GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Gilbert police are investigating after 166 rabbits were rescued from absolutely horrifying conditions.
On Friday, Aug. 23, the Arizona Humane Society (AHS) assisted the Gilbert Police Department as they rescued the animals from a home near Warner and Gilbert roads.
It's suspected that the owner was breeding rabbits as a hobby to sell and to potentially butcher for meat.
The rabbits were kept in a backyard shed in horrible conditions, including 8 to 10 inches of feces. Some rabbits' white paw fur were still stained from all the time they spent standing in their own urine.
"They were being kept in wire cages with rust. The bunnies had open wounds," AHS animal cruelty investigator Ruthie Jesus said. "It's one of the worst hoarding conditions I've ever seen."
In addition to unsanitary living conditions, the rabbits were lacking basic medical care. Many of the creatures were suffering from ear infections, hair loss, ocular/nasal discharge and open wounds on their feet from rusty wire cages.
Because rabbits' teeth grow continuously, they need the ability to chew on things to grind them down. Some of the rabbits at the home had teeth so long that they curled underneath themselves. Veterinarians at AHS had to clip the teeth.
The rabbits are a variety of breeds and range in age from approximately 3 months to 3 years of age.
An Arizona Humane Society rescue team, consisting of nine team members, along with Gilbert police, spent more than five hours removing the animals from the scene and transporting them to the Arizona Humane Society.
There, another eight team members awaited their arrival.
AHS’ medical team immediately began exams and started housing the rabbits in appropriate, air-conditioned kennels.
Sadly, one of the rabbits did not survive. The remaining 165 rabbits have been receiving medical care since then, and are expected to make a full recovery.
One of the rabbits will be adopted by AHS’ Education and Outreach team and will serve as an animal ambassador for AHS’ kids camps.
While the case remains ongoing with Gilbert police, AHS was awarded custody of the rabbits and will now begin spaying and neutering all of the rabbits for placement.
"No criminal charges will go forward in this exact moment," Gilbert PD Public Affiars Officer Dani Covey said. "So we're waiting for the medical records to come back from the Arizona Humane Society."
Any forthcoming charges could qualify as felonies.
With that many rabbits, the spay/neuter surgeries will take several weeks to complete. AHS’ Veterinary Clinic will be performing between five and seven rabbit surgeries daily. The first few rabbits will be available for adoption on Friday.
AHS is encouraging anyone who is interested in adopting to please call its Pet Resource Center at 602-997-7585 Ext. 3800 to be added to the adoption list.
Interested adopters will then be notified when the rabbits start becoming available for adoption, likely toward the end of next week. (Their adoption fee is just $35.)
In addition, some of the rabbits will go up for adoption at various PetSmart locations around the Valley.
And several AHS rescue partners, including Brambley Hedge and BARK, have agreed to take in some of the rabbits.
The folks at AHS say rabbits can make wonderful pets!
While sensitive to the heat and unable to live outdoors in Arizona’s summers, rabbits are easily litterbox-trained and do extremely well in climate-controlled habitats.
Rabbits are also very intelligent, playful pets who enjoy exploring their surroundings. Often, they prefer not to be held and can be quite fragile, but are still very social and lovable pets.
Well-cared for rabbits can live anywhere from seven to 11 years.
The items adopters will want to have on hand prior to adopting a rabbit are: a habitat with a solid floor (allow plenty of time for out-of-cage exercise), Timothy Hay (a type of hay for rabbits), rabbit pellets, fresh/raw vegetables/fruit, litterbox and toys.