Discovery leads to public outcry, offer of reward

Staff Report

The discovery of 20 to 30 rabbits running loose, and seemingly in distress, on Figueroa Mountain Road resulted in multiple calls to Santa Barbara County Animal Services on Aug. 2 along with an outcry of questions about who dumped the rabbits, and why, and the posting of a reward for identifying whoever was responsible.

Animal Control officers, Good Samaritans and volunteers were able to rescue 14 rabbits. Six were found dead.

“I received a phone call, a while after the bunnies came in, from a woman who declined to give her name or contact information saying that she let them go so they could spend their last days in the wild and not caged,” said Jean Silva, a volunteer at Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (BUNS) in Santa Barbara.

Silva added that the women feared if she took the rabbits to a shelter they would just die in a cage.

“She sounded as though she didn’t know there were alternative places like ours for the rabbits. I explained to her they are only caged at night and spend their day in a play yard,” she said.

Silva said the woman spent some time explaining that someone had left the rabbits on her property in raccoon cages, covered by a tarp or blanket.

“She referred to them as ‘meat rabbits,’ and the males were used for that purpose, and she took care of the females as long as she could. When they had come into her care they were severely malnourished,” Silva said.

Rabbits are extremely susceptible to the elements. On the day the rabbits were dumped, for example, the temperatures on the mountain rose to more than 100 degrees, which could have been the cause of death for several of them. In addition, the area they were left is home to predators of all types, so the actual number of abandoned rabbits may never be known.

“We have received a number of inquiries to adopt the rabbits after their quarantine is over, and we have gotten some donations to help with costs. We always appreciate the extra help,” Silva said.

Officials at Santa Barbara County Animal Services point out that animal abandonment is against the law, as well as unnecessary. Animal Services and partners throughout Santa Barbara County, including BUNS, offer to help rabbit owners who no longer feel that they can provide adequate care.

Many other groups also provide resources to owners of other companion animals, making abandonment of any animal even more egregious and unnecessary, they said.

To contact BUNS about donating or adopting the rabbits, call 683-0521, go to or visit the shelter at 5473 Overpass Road in Santa Barbara.