By Maria Rocha-Buschel
About a dozen bunnies that were rescued from the home of an animal hoarder found new homes during an adoption event in the former Police Academy building on Saturday.
The 50 bunnies up for adoption at the event were just a small portion of the nearly 200 rabbits that had been rescued last January in Brooklyn from bunny hoarder Dorota Trec, who was arrested for animal cruelty. When the rabbits were rescued, Ani-Care Hospital in Pennsylvania took custody of 150 of the bunnies and St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in New Jersey became responsible for 77. The total count of rabbits from the seizure was ultimately around 230 because some of the rabbits were pregnant at the time; the event last Saturday had at least one mother-daughter pair up for adoption.
The adoption event was hosted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Ani-Care Hospital and the NYPD.
Natasha Whitling of the ASPCA said that the use of the former Police Academy space was made possible through the ASPCA’s partnership with the NYPD, which still uses the building on East 20th Street as a candidate assessment center.
The program, which began in January, 2014, allows the NYPD to take the lead role in responding to all animal cruelty complaints in the five boroughs and the change has widened the police response to animal abuse complaints.
Previously, the ASPCA worked with 17 police officers that were responsible for the “overwhelming” task of dealing with animal abuse complaints but since the partnership, there has been training for more officers in the department and there are additional resources to deal with the complaints. Whitling said that there was a 200 percent increase in animals rescued during the first year of the partnership.
“The ASPCA has always had a humane enforcement division but since the NYPD has taken responsibility we have more boots on the ground,” she added.
The event last Saturday, officially given the punny title “Buns N’ Roses” in honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, had the stamp of approval from at least one Instagram-famous rabbit. Cleo the bunny, a litter trained angora rabbit who freely hopped around the event (and occasionally pilfered some straw from the caged rabbits), was a big hit with the post-brunch crowd, some who came out just to see her. Cleo’s caretaker, Diana Yen, said she was surprised but thrilled that her bunny brought so many people out to the event.
“It’s really great that she’s raising awareness about having a bunny in an apartment,” she said. “Litter training a rabbit takes like two days. They actually make really great apartment pets.”