Possible 'meat operation' leads to toxic rabbits loose in South Nashville

Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 10:05pm

A rabbit breeding operation at a South Nashville residence may have allowed dozens of infected rabbits to roam the neighborhood, according to neighbors and local animal advocates.

The concern centers around a backyard hutch at 687 Huntington Parkway, off Edmondson Pike, which neighbors claimed housed more than 70 rabbits.

Robert Sutherland, who lives in the neighborhood, said his stepdaughters first noticed several rabbits that got free last week.

“We had driven by one late afternoon and early evening and saw all these white rabbits hopping around the area,” Sutherland told The City Paper. “We ended up seeing this breeding operation that was going on back there.”

Sutherland worked for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Canada, so he knew the snow-white rabbits weren’t wild animals. Advocates believe the rabbits are of the domesticated breed called New Zealand white rabbits.

Metro Animal Care and Control visited the home last week and gave the residents until Friday to get rid of the rabbits. According to officer Billy Biggs, the original report was 80 rabbits, but the officers saw “about half of that” when they visited.

Chelsea Bordlen, who helps run Clover Patch Sanctuary, one of just a few rabbit rescue programs in the area, said the hutch was overrun with rabbits.

“They were coming out of sewage drains; they were everywhere really,” Bordlen said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Clover Patch Sanctuary was able to catch four of the rabbits. One of them died from a gangrene infection shortly thereafter.

The remaining three were taken to a veterinarian, who made an alarming discovery. All three of the rabbits were infected with coccidia, a parasite that can be transferred between animals. If a dog or cat ingested the rabbits’ feces, it could contract the infection, according to Grassmere Animal Hospital.

The City Paper spotted nine white rabbits loose in the area along Huntington Parkway on Wednesday. Five rabbits were spotted under a car in the front yard of the house, two were under a car in the driveway and two others were spotted in neighbors’ yards as far as a block away. Knocks on the front door went unanswered.

According to Metro ordinances, people aren’t allowed to own more than five companion animals, which includes rabbits, if the person displays a “general disregard” for the condition of the animals.

Biggs said the owner of the home admitted to having a breeding operation that got out of control.

“He got over his head in it. It’s easy to do with rabbits,” Biggs said. “He probably thought he was going to have a good meat operation.”

According to Biggs, slaughtering animals in Metro Nashville is illegal, and it’s usually difficult to determine if the animals are killed in a cruel manner. The slaughtering is actually a Metro Department of Codes issue, Biggs said.

The melting pot of immigrants and refugees in South Nashville can lead to some culture clashes concerning animals slaughtered for food or tradition. Metro Animal Control recently responded to a family that killed a goat and displayed it to the neighborhood.

“The goat was hanging in the tree [in the front yard] for everyone to see,” Biggs said. “I wasn’t there to see how they killed it.”

As for the rabbits, advocates believe Metro Animal Control should have acted faster in preserving the safety of the animals. The rabbits that have gotten loose are likely to die in the wild — and advocates doubt that the owners will find their rabbits good homes.

“When I was working for the SPCA ... if we got a report of something like this, it would get top priority because of the number of animals involved and the potential danger to them,” Sutherland said. “We would respond by going to get them and get as many of them as we could, if not all of them. They certainly wouldn’t be left there.”

13 Comments on this post:

By: budlight on 6/21/13 at 7:24

Disgusting. The rabbits and the goat. People from other countries don't know the laws and don't care to know or obey them in this country.

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 6/21/13 at 7:54

It is disgusting to me, but if people do not know the laws, they need to be taught the laws. How long did it go on before anybody reported it?

By: sickofit on 6/21/13 at 8:02

I feel so sorry for the rabbits. I hope they catch as many as they can. As for the haters above complaining about people from other countries, guarantee you most of the people in Nashville aren't aware of all the laws. Sounds like you have an issue with other races. We are 99.9% the same genetically. You probably buy your meat from a grocery and you have no idea how those animals were treated before they were slaughtered for your dinner.

By: bunnyfever on 6/21/13 at 8:15

according to neighbors this has been going on for at least 2 years, they only started escaping when the city took down their privacy fence for construction and replaced it with a temporary net. These are beautiful bunnies who were being very abused and are very sick. He took them on wed and dumped them all over Nashville at various locations so he would not be cited by Metro who was supposed to return today to take them. He has stashed a few and will be starting over again after this dies down. If anyone sees any white bunnies running loose please call metro asap or clover patch. One dump was off of Nolensville road in Antioch. These bunnies will not survive out there.

By: C.A.Jones on 6/21/13 at 9:00

I've been targeting these little monsters with my car tires for the last couple days. It's hard to tell the 5 point bunnies from the 10 pointers!

By: JunebugTN on 6/21/13 at 10:06

Great article - thanks for exposing this. Even if people aren't concerned about the animal cruelty aspect, the health dangers to the local wildlife and neighbors pets are terrible.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/21/13 at 10:50

The title sounds like it could be from Monty Python.

By: Susieleavell on 6/21/13 at 12:21

How can anyone turn a blind eye to this???
I include myself in this statement...Absolutely appalling!!!
My family has live & shared our lives with rabbits for the past 12 years & we know what incredible creatures they are: intelligent, curious, playful, and loving animals.
To read of this barbaric inhumane treatment against any animal grieves us deeply. This is blatant animal abuse & this person needs to be held accountable!

By: SVmartin on 6/21/13 at 12:38

I can't stress enough that Metro Animal Control is also at large fault in this mess. They saw the rabbits, cited the man for cruelty and then allowed him 5 days to discard of them as HE saw fit. That makes no sense at all. Metro also didn't seem to know the laws and when shown a video of the backyard, responded to the question "Is this legal?!!" with "uhhh...I don't really know...I guess so." They are inept and need to be held accountable. The man has admitted to dumping the rabbits in different woods throughout the city and several who were rescued have been found to have coccidia infection which can be spread to area wildlife, dogs and cats. He is still selling the rabbits and is keeping chickens and birds as well. This man is breaking the law on many different levels and is being left to his own devices because Animal Control is being lazy about it.

By: Susieleavell on 6/21/13 at 2:16

Would LOVE to hear Mayor Karl Dean's response to article & especially SVmartin's comments!

By: smilinpossum on 6/22/13 at 10:47

"“He got over his head in it. It’s easy to do with rabbits,” Biggs said. “

Not if you keep the males and female separate..
My husband and I have had 2 females and one male rabbit for almost 3 years now...and, guess what..???
We still have just 2 females and 1 male..imagine that!
They *are* kept to raise young for meat rabbits..
We breed one at a time, have 10 babies..eat them ourselves, or give/ sell them to friends..
It is clean, cheap, hormone/ chemical free meat...

My hutches are large, and have screened bottoms in the front so the poop/ pee goes underneath, where i collect it for fertilizer for the garden..rabbit poop being the only manure that doesn't need to "age"..can be put on the garden right away..

So, the guy is an idiot...if he didn't have sense enough to kep the males and females separate...

And, to the haters...I respect your feelings, but unless you are a vegetarian, you have nothing to say..
Have you seen how commercial chickens and cows and pigs are raised?
And they are all cute animals in their own right...

By: bfra on 6/22/13 at 6:16


By: MamaG on 6/24/13 at 10:40

bfra--I agree with you 100% about codes. They pick and choose what to do and when, where to do it. I had to tear a house down because of codes but the house next door to me has been vacant for months and the grass is taller than I am now. I've called codes and they said, yes, we have a call on that property already. That was a month ago and still nothing has been done. It's a joke and a half!