It was not a warm and fuzzy Peter Cottontail discovery at a barn in Clinton Township this week.
Charges of animal cruelty are pending against the owner of a rabbitry, where officials from the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found about 50 rabbits, 40 of them living in poor and filthy conditions and 10 that had perished in the second floor of the barn on Brouse Road, said Lawrence Woltz, chief humane society officer.
"The entire floor was covered in several inches of rabbit feces, urine and shredded newspaper," he said.
Some of the 40 rabbits rescued this week now are caged at the local SPCA.
Dozens of penned rabbits seized from a barn on Brouse Road in Clinton Township near Montgomery now are at the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on Reach Road, where they are receiving veterinarian care and wellness checks and are seeking new adoptive homes. The rabbits were found living in deplorable conditions, and some humane society officers found piles of dead rabbits, while others were injured and dying. The owner of the rabbitry faces charges.
The owners face charges related to the alleged failure to provide necessary sustenance, water, medical care, food, clean and sanitary shelter and a reasonable environment in which to live, Woltz said.
The penalty for the charge carries a fine of between $50 to $750 and/or 90 days in jail, Woltz said.
The humane society was tipped off by two women who went there this week to buy a pet rabbit.
"She was appalled when she saw 40 rabbits, many of them running loose and injured," Woltz said.
After the SPCA officers obtained a search warrant Thursday, they went to the property to look inside the barn.
There, the officers found no dens or nesting boxes, and the male rabbits were fighting with each other, according to the complaint.
A pile of rabbit corpses was discovered and some of the deceased rabbits allegedly remained in locked cages.
The SPCA seized the rabbits, transported them to the Reach Road headquarters, where they have been housed in a conference room as a matter of bio-security. One of the rabbits had to be euthanized due to its extremely poor condition, Woltz said.
The shelter now needs to find people who will want to adopt one or more rabbits.
"Our main concern is we got them and we must feed (them and) provide bedding and medical care," he said.
The SPCA spent $200 in one day on the food alone, he added.
"Hopefully, we'll find places ... good and responsible home environment(s) where they can be taken care of and be the pets they are meant to be. We're looking for responsible new owners after the veterinarian gives them a clear bill of health," Woltz said.
The humane societies in the United States are charged with providing care for all domestic animals, including rabbits.
The seizure took place a week after the celebration of Easter, and it made Woltz question whether the rabbits were raised for sale as pets.