On Animal Confiscations and Animal Rescue

Madison, Wisconsin 

For some time, those of us involved with rabbit rescue knew about a possible confiscation in the works in Adams County. Confiscations are carried out when someone is severely abusing or neglecting animals or when they are raising animals for illegal sport such as pit bull fighting. It is not a simple process, though. First the authorities have to find out somehow. Sometimes a concerned citizen makes a report (in this case, someone called the police saying they had seen dead animals in a neighbor’s yard). Sometimes authorities get called to that residence for another reason and discover the animals while there (such a case occurred last year when police went to a rural property to do a drug bust and found dozens of severely neglected animals, mostly rabbits). An investigation has to be conducted and a decision made whether it is okay to let the people in question keep the animals or whether the animals need to be removed. Often what happens first is the people are warned, then given the chance to improve the care they provide.

Animal neglect/cruelty cases can drag on for months. In the mean time, area animal rescue groups are on standby, knowing that if the confiscation goes through there will be a sudden inundation of critters in need of health care, socializing, and new homes. Often arriving in horrible condition, they may even have major injuries, especially those who were raised for fighting. Unfortunately for the animals, there is generally a period of limbo in between being removed from the old environment and reaching the animal rescue folks. During the potentially lengthy time frame while the case is pending and being further investigated, the animals have to remain in the custody of the local police or sheriff’s department. Law enforcement facilities were never designed to be animal shelters, nor are law enforcement officials experts in animal healthcare or behavior. The accommodations for the confiscated animals are impromptu at best. Over the last few years, there has been a rash of confiscations, many of them involving rabbits. Wisconsin House Rabbit Society has been hit on average at least once a year.

The investigation that had been underway in Adams County finally led to 135 rabbits being sent to the Adams County Humane society on January 28, 2010. Several other species had been removed as well, totaling nearly 200 animals all together. The small shelter was utterly overwhelmed. They do not have the space, housing, equipment, supplies-and most importantly the funding-for such a large number of animals. Various animal rescue groups from the region agreed to each take some of the animals. Wisconsin HRS and the Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) agreed to take a total of sixty-two rabbits.

Following a major confiscation, spay/neuter clinics are often arranged because there are simply too many animals all at once for one veterinary clinic to handle. Veterinarians and vet techs are recruited to volunteer their time, if necessary a temporary clinic is set up, then spays & neuters and basic health exams are done all day almost assembly line style.

With the Adams County case, the “Bunny Bun-anza” rabbit adoption event was also planned. Deciding to strike while the iron was hot, the date of the adopt-athon was set for February 21 and arrangements were quickly made. While it was held at DCHS, it was a joint effort between them and WHRS. A large room was set up with exercise pens each containing a rabbit or a bonded pair of rabbits. An information table well stocked with literature was staffed by WHRS volunteers. Joan and Renee, the DCHS rabbit specialists, were also in attendance. Overall, the adopt-athon went much better than anyone had expected considering it was put on at such short notice.

I love enriching the lives of both rabbits and humans by educating the latter about the former. Many of the Bunny Bun-anza attendees were first time bunny people. It was wonderful getting to tell them about life with rabbits and observe their excitement as they met the buns. The event was well attended and several rabbits got adopted or had holds placed on them pending completion of the application process. At the adopt-athon, I got to introduce people to the magic that is rabbit and to the greatest love they may ever know. Rabbits who have only known severe neglect, illness, hunger and loneliness in the past now have a home with doting humans. There are still a lot of rabbits available for adoption. If you were thinking of adding to your brood (or even if you weren’t until now), you are more than welcome to join the ranks of the Bunny Bun-anza adopters.

The Adams County Case

On November 11, 2009, someone called in a report of dead animals in the yard of Jesse & Tina Kolb, residents of the Town of Springville, Wisconsin. When a deputy went to the house, the Kolbs refused to let him in. Morbidly thin dogs and horses were chained outside with no food or water. Upon returning later with a search warrant, law enforcement found the following, all in states of terrible neglect, starvation, and filth: the Kolbs’ three children, one ferret, two horses, seven guinea pigs, thirteen cats, thirty-seven dogs, and 135 rabbits. According to the criminal complaint, the home was filthy and filled with piles of debris and clothing; everything was covered in feces, including the children.

The children were removed to foster care. The animals were in the custody of the Adams County Sheriff’s Department until they could be released to the Adams County Humane Society on January 28, 2010. ACHS is a very small shelter not equipped to house the approximately 200 animals.

Various rescue groups from the region agreed to each take a few of the animals. As for the rabbits, approximately twenty-four are in the care of the Adams County 4-H, sixty-two came to Dane County (some in the care of the Wisconsin House Rabbit Society, some at the Dane County Humane Society), six went to the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) in Waukesha (two of those were already set to be adopted), and ten went to the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Des Moines, Iowa. Additional rabbits were transferred to other shelters, with eight rabbits remaining at ACHS.

by Charlotte-Ann Chenery, HRS Educator