MASSACHUSETTS -- A rabbit farmer who has come under scrutiny in at least two towns has been charged with animal cruelty after an inspection by the Truro animal control officer found eight angora rabbits in allegedly filthy conditions in a basement on Bayview Drive.
Kenneth Abert, 56, of Provincetown, was arraigned in Orleans District Court on Wednesday on charges of animal cruelty and obstruction of an animal inspection months after Truro police first received notice that was he was keeping rabbits in unhealthy conditions.
Truro Animal Control Officer Suzanne Trasavage first heard about the rabbits Aug. 20 from Chelsea Weiand, an officer with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Law Enforcement Division, according to court records.
Weiand had received an anonymous complaint about the animals. When she inspected 10 Bayview Drive in North Truro, she found a horse and eight rabbits at the home of Luther Bumps.
Weiand inspected the property and told Bumps and Abert they had to improve the living situations for the animals.
When Weiand returned Aug. 27, nothing had changed, according to court records.
Bumps also was charged with animal cruelty and was arraigned Nov. 16, according to court records. The horse had no covered shelter and a stagnant, algae-filled water trough, with no way to get more water, according to court documents.
On Aug. 31, Trasavage and Truro Patrol Officer Thomas Roda inspected the property.
The modest home is on a hill overlooking Cape Cod Bay. The rabbits were in the basement. As Trasavage and Roda descended the basement steps, “we were overcome with the odor of urine/ammonia,” Trasavage wrote in her report.
They found 16 rabbit cages stacked on top of each other with eight rabbits inside them.
“Each rabbit was sitting in its own urine and feces,” she wrote.
They had food, although some was moldy, but three had no water. The rabbits’ fur was matted from them sitting in their own waste, she wrote.
In the 80-degree summer heat, the smell of urine burned Trasavage’s eyes and throat, and she found no ventilation for the animals, she wrote.
On Sept. 4, the police asked Abert to turn over the rabbits to the care of the Truro police. He complied, according to court records. The Truro police would not say where the animals were taken, and Mary-Sarah Fairweather, executive director of MSPCA Cape Cod, would not confirm the rabbits were taken to the agency’s Centerville shelter.
She noted, however, that the facility does take angoras and other animals rescued by law enforcement and nurses them back to health to make them available for adoption.
The Truro police went before a clerk-magistrate Nov. 2 to determine if there was enough evidence to issue a criminal complaint against Abert. He was summonsed on the charges Dec. 2.
Abert could not be reached for comment. He uses an address on Race Point Lane in Provincetown to receive mail but does not live there, according to a man who occupies that house.
The man said Abert was a good person who had been farming rabbits in other locations for years and was trying to make a living here.
This is not the first time Abert has faced scrutiny for his rabbits.
In October 2014, the Provincetown Building Department issued a shutdown order to Abert, who was keeping rabbits on a Race Point Road property that included Nelson’s Riding Stables, according to Carol MacDonald, president of the Provincetown Animal Welfare Committee. Abert did not have the necessary special permit to breed rabbits for wool or meat, according to the notice issued by Building Commissioner Geoffrey Larsen.
MacDonald had first inspected Abert’s rabbits after a neighbor complained. She described how up to 60 rabbits were kept in cages stacked on top of each other, with the feces from one animal dripping down to the others.
Smaller, young white rabbits that were kept for meat were on top, while the larger angoras, which are kept for their fur and not slaughtered, lived on the bottom, she said.
“To see all those baby bunnies all crammed in there, the conditions were really lousy,” she said.
In his emails with Larsen last year, Abert said he wanted to sell high-quality rabbit meat on the Lower Cape and was looking for a better location.
Macdonald said Abert ended the meat production but she later heard he still worked with the angoras.
Abert is due back in court for a pretrial hearing Jan. 5.
(Cape Cod Times - Dec 4, 2015)