Authorities raiding Six Bell's Farm in Arvada last month found 200 rabbits crammed in "inhumane and cruel" cages "caked with feces and urine" in an overheated shed, a search warrant stated.
Deprived of food and water, the rabbits were so "aggressively thirsty" that they were "lunging toward water bowls" offered by animal control officers, according to the search warrant affidavit released by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday.
Debe Dale Bell, 59, the former owner of the rabbits, has been charged with 25 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, according to records.
Photographs released by the sheriff's office showed rabbits in cages filled with mounds of feces and pools of urine. Some rabbits' hair was so matted, they appeared to be large balls of fur with no visible eyes, mouth or genitalia.
"Many of the rabbits' coats are so severely matted that they cannot urinate or defecate without extreme difficulty," sheriff's Investigator Amy Perasso wrote in the affidavit.
Authorities received a Crime Stoppers tip on July 19 from someone saying they had visited Bell's home at 12820 W. 75th Ave. and saw rabbits housed in a shed with little light in "filthy and cramped cages" and "the place stunk of urine and feces," the affidavit said.
During the raid two days later, Animal Control officer Anthony Padilla said he found the rabbits living in "deplorable" condition, confined in a small area, the affidavit said.
Veterinarian Anita Hill examined the shed and said that "all the rabbits need to be seized as they conditions they are living in are inhumane, unhealthy and present an eminent danger to their lives and well-being," the affidavit said.
The allegations in the affidavit, included:
The temperature in the shed was 84 degrees, but Hill said an acceptable climate for the rabbits should be no more than 80 degrees.
There were 75 percent more rabbits housed in the shed than the space allowed.
There was a "complete lack of ventilation."
A dead rabbit was found in the shed, and five dead rabbits were stored in a freezer in the garage.
Bell once had a state license as a small animal breeder, but was not longer licensed, the affidavit said. But it was apparent Bell was still breeding rabbits, because baby bunnies were found in some cages.
Attorneys for Bell blocked the Foothill Animal Shelter's plans to begin offering the now-healthy rabbits for adoption on Wednesday. The shelter had been treating the animals since they were seized last month.
Bell's attorney filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to "prevent distribution, surgical alteration or destruction to seized animals," according to the shelter. A court hearing is scheduled Friday morning on the motion.
Bell's Six Bell's Farm website says she's been "raising rabbits since 1982, both with my kids in 4-H and open shows."
"I am one of the Bunny Ladies from the National Western Stock Show having been involved with the NWSS for more than 12 years," Bell writes. Her website displays photographs of her wide array of rabbit breeds, from American Fuzzy Lops to Netherland Dwarfs.
Bell works as a laboratory coordinator and adjunct faculty member in the Chemistry Department at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, according to the college website.
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