Margo DeMello, 505-771-3157, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Richmond, CA) A group of 161 rabbits, seized along with many other animals because of a cruelty complaint on January 29 in Lauderdale County, Alabama, may be in even more danger now that they have been sent to other rabbit breeders.
On January 29, over 200 malnourished and neglected animals were removed from the home of Patrick and Laura Sherwood, of Florence, Alabama, including 161 rabbits who were found in deplorable conditions. Patrick Sherwood is a sex offender who had not complied with mandatory registration requirements and, according to Laura Sherwood’s defense attorney, Jon McGee, he expects the evidence to show that mental instability played a part in the Sherwoods’ treatment of their animals. Both Sherwoods are now in custody at the Lauderdale County Detention Center facing animal cruelty charges.
Even though the horses, donkeys, hamsters, llamas, dogs, cats, and birds are either being cared for at the Lauderdale County animal shelter or at the rescue organizations to whom they have been transferred, District Attorney Chris Connolly, in cooperation with the Sherwoods themselves, chose to let the rabbits go to another rabbit breeder, Andy High, who is also the county coroner. High has since given the rabbits away to other breeders, in both Alabama and Tennessee, where they will be bred for the rest of their lives.
Connolly has said, referring to the animals rescued from the Sherwoods, “We don’t want to give the animals to someone who will be doing the same thing with them, and they will be neglected and mistreated again.”
And yet 161 rabbits, the largest group of animals taken from this case, have simply been sent from one breeder to another to another. They will spend the rest of their lives outdoors in small metal cages, just like at the Sherwoods, being bred over and over to make their new owners a profit.
House Rabbit Society, an international rabbit rescue and advocacy organization with volunteers in 36 states including Alabama, is outraged that the District Attorney would allow the perpetrators of animal cruelty to help select where some of the animals they have abused will go. Margo DeMello, House Rabbit Society President, adds, “I am shocked that an officer of the court would essentially sentence dozens of animals who have spent a lifetime of suffering with one animal breeder to the same suffering with other breeders. Where is the justice for these animals?”
District Attorney Connelly promised to meet with Mindy Gilbert, the Alabama representative for the Humane Society for the United States who has been working with House Rabbit Society, to decide the best placement for the rabbits. He has now changed his mind And did not meet with Gilbert. DeMello adds, “We would like District Attorney Connolly to look to his own words, and ensure that these rabbits will never be mistreated again. The only way to do that is by letting them go to rescuers, who will find these rabbits good homes, instead of the breeders who profit off of their bodies.”