Animals Shelters Rescued 156 Rabbits in Tampa

In year 2000, Peter Bordwell, now 68 bought a rabbit and named her Bitsy. After a while, thinking that Bitsy looked lonely, he bought her a female rabbit. It turned out that it was a male rabbit instead. After six months, the two rabbits had reproduced to 17 rabbits in his house.


He initially tried to separate them by gender, but the rabbits dug under the fence. He had an old mother to take care of and could not afford to neuter the rabbits. Each day, Peter got up at 5:30am to buy produce and spent the day chopping fresh vegetables for the bunnies and clean their cages. Then he got sick himself and the rabbit cages went unkept.


On 28 January 2009, authorities came and took all his bunnies away, all 156 of them. They also took away his cat and three kittens. While some of us will immediately associate this news with animals abuse, the truth is Peter loves his bunnies more than anything. Everyday, he would lug home 50 to 60 pounds of vegetables and spend all day changing out litter boxes, sweeping and mopping the floor with bleach. At 5 pm, he would start chopping broccoli, carrots, lettuce, romaine and Kale for the rabbits.


Everyday at 6pm, he would move from one rabbit cage to the next, feeding the rabbits, petting them and talking to them. All his rabbits have unique names – Scooter, Spot, Angel and Precious. The entire feeding time would take him more than 4 hours and by the time he finished with the last rabbit it would be time for bed. He would start the entire process again early the next morning.


When some of the rabbits got sick, he would bring them to the vet, and the bills amassed to more than $3,000. While busy caring for the rabbits, he was also nursing and caring for his ill aging mother. She took medicine for osteoporosis, high blood pressure and swollen limbs. His mother warned Peter that he was having too many rabbits and he might lose them some day. His mother finally died in 2006 at the age of 103, leaving behind Peter and his rabbits.


In November 2007, Peter purchased a 1.3 acres land just for his beloved bunnies. He wanted to build a compound where the rabbits could run freely, but separated to buck’s area and doe’s area. In 2008, he began to experience debilitating pain and was unable to move and clean the cages before the compound could be completed. The only thing that was still short for the compound was the fencing, which he could not afford. He had surgery in October. He was no longer able to keep his house and the rabbit cages in order.


“It was a race to get that fencing in place,” he said. But on Wednesday, with his pets gone, and 160 misdemeanor charges of improper confinement of animals against him, he thought of his property in Plant City and wept.


“All I wanted was for them to live out their lives and be happy and die in old age,” he said. “And I was going to follow them.”


Vets are currently checking the rabbits for medical issues, Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan said. It was reported that two of the rabbits may have to be put to sleep and the others will be rehabilitated. Once rehabilitated, the bunnies will be available for adoption through the county’s animal shelters, Ryan said.


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