Groups working to round up domesticated rabbits that have been running loose in Florida neighborhood

Jul 21, 2023, 11:58 AM

WILTON MANORS, Fla. (AP) — Dan Trebowski was angry when he saw people in front of his Wilton Manors home trying to capture the lionhead rabbits that have populated his neighborhood. He feared the domesticated bunnies, who are not meant to live outdoors, were being taken away to be killed.

He calmed down once he was assured that Dylan Warfel, Tina Crossgrove and Kristina Gertser were from Penny & Wild Smalls of South Florida. Theirs is one of the groups that has begun capturing the estimated 60 to 100 rabbits that have populated the suburban Fort Lauderdale neighborhood so they can be put up for adoption.

They are captured using traps, hands and, sometimes, nets. They are not harmed in the process.

“It is important that they are not euthanized. It is understandable that this is not the right environment for them,” Trebowski said Thursday night. Still, he is a bit disappointed that the rabbits can’t stay — his two schnauzers love playing with them. Most of them just hop right up to people, seeking food. “They bring a lot of joy to the neighborhood.”

Other neighbors were not so understanding of the rescue effort, however. Some followed the rescuers during Thursday’s efforts. Some made threats. Police came out and spoke to people. None of those neighbors wanted to be interviewed.

Lionhead rabbits are bred to live in homes. They are not wild animals any more than a pack of cocker spaniels would be just because they descend from wolves. Florida’s environment in particular is not friendly to lionheads. Their thick, bushy mane and heavy coat makes them overheat in the summer. Their lack of fear makes them susceptible to predators like cats and hawks. And they get hit by cars. They also dig holes in yards and damage outdoor wiring. One neighbor let her dog kill one.

Instead of living seven to nine years as they do as pets, many of the Wilton Manors rabbits have died in less than two. The colony only grows and survives because the females have several litters a year, usually between two and six kits.

The rabbits are the descendants of a group that a backyard breeder illegally released when she moved out of the neighborhood two years ago. After The Associated Press reported earlier this week about plans to rescue the rabbits, making them national celebrities, threats were made online to shoot, poison or otherwise harm the animals. That caused the rescue groups to speed up their efforts to round up the animals.

“Those threats are more than hot air,” said Warfel, whose group is working with East Coast Rabbit Rescue.

The groups’ biggest needs are money and homes and facilities to house the rabbits while they are being treated before adoption. To neuter, vaccinate and treat any illnesses usually costs rescue groups between $200 and $400 per rabbit. Food and other supplies can add another $150 to $200 a month until they are healthy enough to be placed — that usually takes between one and six months, sometimes more. The rescue operation is expected to cost the groups $20,000 to $40,000.

“Finding housing is very difficult. Most of the private rescues in Florida do not have shelter facilities,” Warfel said. And this is likely going to be an ongoing project — the rescuers can’t go on private property without permission, so it will likely take some time to catch them all.

Kim Renk Dryer, who runs a private rabbit sanctuary in Rhode Island, flew to South Florida on Thursday to help with the rescue effort. She has arranged for some of the rabbits to be taken to a Palm Beach County home she owns and others to be housed at a barn.

“I could not in my wildest dreams believe what I saw,” Dryer said. She said it is clear that many of the rabbits are in bad shape and need medical attention. Many of them have ear mites and parasites living in their guts, making their already tough lives tougher.

“One person caused this,” she said, referring to the breeder who let the first ones loose. She doesn’t understand why she has not been prosecuted, something the city has chosen not to pursue.

Because of the interference from neighbors, Penny & Wild only caught three rabbits Thursday night after catching 13 earlier, one of whom gave birth to three kits overnight. Other groups have also caught some.

Meanwhile, after Trebowski spoke with Penny & Wild and understood their aims, he asked how he could adopt a couple rabbits after they are neutered and treated.

He thinks his schnauzers would like to have their playmates back.

United States News

FILE - South Dakota Republican Rep. Jon Hansen, co-chair of the Life Defense Fund and a lawyer for ...

Associated Press

South Dakota anti-abortion group appeals ruling that dismissed its lawsuit over ballot initiative

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — An anti-abortion group in South Dakota is appealing to the state’s Supreme Court after a judge dismissed its lawsuit to take an abortion rights initiative off the November ballot. In a statement, Life Defense Fund Co-Chair Leslee Unruh said the group has asked for an expedited order from the court “because […]

42 minutes ago

Eli Trujillo poses inside his barbershop in Cheyenne, Wyo., Thursday, July 18, 2024. Trujillo, 87, ...

Associated Press

Too old to work? Some Americans on the job late in life bristle at calls for Biden to step aside

NEW YORK (AP) — A swath of Americans watching President Biden is seeing something beyond debate-stage stumbles and prime-time miscues: Themselves. Debate about the 81-year-old Democrat’s fitness for another term is especially resonating with other older Americans who, like him, want to stay on the job. “People were telling me I should retire too,” says […]

46 minutes ago

A passenger looks at a departures monitor at the Des Moines International Airport, Friday, July 19,...

Associated Press

A massive tech outage is causing worldwide disruptions. Here’s what we know

NEW YORK (AP) — Much of the world faced online disarray Friday as a widespread technology outage affected companies and services across industries — grounding flights, knocking banks and hospital systems offline and media outlets off air. At the heart of the massive disruption is CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm that provides software to scores of […]

48 minutes ago

Associated Press

What to know about Evan Gershkovich’s conviction for espionage in Russia

The trial of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich ended Friday with his conviction on espionage charges that he, his employer and the U.S. government have dismissed as fabricated. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Here’s what we know about the secretive process. Where was the trial he ld? It took place in […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Former Trump executive Allen Weisselberg released from jail after serving perjury sentence

NEW YORK (AP) — Retired Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg was released from New York City’s Rikers Island jail on Friday after serving a sentence for lying under oath, according to online records. The former chief financial officer at Donald Trump’s real estate company pleaded guilty in March to committing perjury during his testimony in […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference in Miami, on May 9, 2023. The Trea...

Associated Press

The Treasury Department warns that an anti-woke Florida banking law is a national security risk

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department is warning that state laws that restrict banks from considering environmental, social and governance factors could harm efforts to address money laundering and terrorism financing. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter sent Thursday to lawmakers. The letter singled out a law signed by Florida Gov. Ron […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.



Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

Groups working to round up domesticated rabbits that have been running loose in Florida neighborhood