Mar Vista man hoarding hundreds of bunnies in his backyard
LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Calif. - Some call it animal rescue, others call it hoarding.
A Mar Vista man has hundreds of bunnies his backyard. However, the rather crowded home is now pitting neighbor against neighbor.
FOX 11's Hailey Winslow got a chance to look at Joseph Franco's backyard.
"How many do you have?" Winslow asked, mid-tour.
"Too many," Franco admits.
Franco explained the backyard used to be a herb garden.
"We made herbal extracts for hair and skin products for Redken and other companies," he said. "We took the rabbits on as a favor to some friends, so we took two animals that were not fixed, and they told us they were fixed, so it started with a little white lie."
And the rabbits rapidly multiplied. Rabbit rescuers say they're all less than a year old because they've been through this with Franco before, breeding and hoarding feral bunnies.
"They are sick, sick, sick, sick, sick and suffering back there and getting eaten by raccoons like every night," said Linda Bailey, Too Many Bunnies Rabbit Rescue director. "I have a bunch of skulls that show retro bulb abscess, they’re dying horribly. He ordered us off the property when we were down to 13 rabbits."
Franco denies an allegation that he took "truckloads" of the rabbits to the butcher.
"No, that's not true at all," Franco said of the allegations. "We provide a place for them to live and multiply and they can burrow but apparently we were doing the wrong thing. In the city limits you can’t do that."
While we were here, a Los Angeles city worker dropped off these crates for Franco to take the bunnies to local shelters. They can’t be released into the wild because unlike cottontails, these are a domestic breed.
"If I was going to rehab these rabbits, it would take months of careful care and a lot of space and obviously vet care to get them into a position where you could hand them to a small child," Bailey said. "Some of them will never be able to be handed to a small child."
Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation founder and president Michelle Kelly said there's nothing wrong with domesticating rabbits. However, Kelly warns rabbits reproduce at rapid rates.
"Rabbits actually make fantastic house pets, and they litter box train," Kelly said. "They’re wonderful but they have to be spayed and neutered because their reproductive rate is exponential."
"In hoarding cases that I’ve done, generally about six months later if you just do the math on how fast they multiply, you get another hoarder about 10 houses down or on the next street over, and then we have to do it again, so I usually walk the neighborhoods in English and Spanish and tell people to call me if bunnies are popping up," Bailey said.
"The most important thing people can do now to help this situation is to adopt a rabbit or a guinea pig or hamster because they live in the same room at the shelters so adopting a rabbit from a rescue or shelter will really help," Kelly said.