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Aptos Breeder Confiscation/Rabbit Rescue Update
Update: March 3, 2014

Mr. De la Garza filed an appeal on our case from 2013 and the appellate was held in mid-January 2014. Judge Burdick was sitting on the Appellate Panel and gave Mr. De la Garza his ruling that he denied his appeal. Restitution still stands for both Santa Cruz shelter and also The Rabbit haven plus 10 conviction for animal cruelty. De la Garza took the opportunity to speak about the usual scattered topics in court. He then walked out of the courthouse into the atrium and met up with another person who also was convicted of animal abuse, an animal abuser convicted of animal cruelty/neglect relating to the numerous dogs on his property in the San Lorenzo Valley.

It was critically important to hold Mr. De la Garza legally responsible and label his conduct. It's huge to see ten misdemeanor convictions for animal cruelty. The District Attorney Nicole Jones did an excellent job in obtaining these convictions. It lets any other prosecutor, police officer, and/or humane enforcement officer know about his conduct if they check his record. It's also important to let any other judge he might come before know that he has done so in the past. Most importantly his conviction reaffirms the belief that people in Santa Cruz are clear that his treatment of those rabbits was absolutely unacceptable and they held him accountable for their injury and suffering. Thank you for everyone's assistance in offering photos and testimony that gave evidence regarding the condition of the rabbits he was abusing.

August 2, 2013
Man convicted of neglect was sentenced today in superior court, jail time - 114 rabbit rescue case comes to a close.

Judge Salazar sentenced Mario De la Garza on 10 counts of animal neglect 8-2-2013 after jury find him guilty on all counts.

Given the gravity of the charges brought against this defendant, we were somewhat disappointed by the judge’s decision and related statements, however , in total, the sentence of 90 days in jail , 60 months of probation , and terms that the individual may not possess, greed, buy or sell rabbits or any animal is a good start - In addition he is subject to search and seizure of any animals found in his care or on his property or person. There are systems in place now to make it difficult for this person to harm additional rabbits or other animals .

All in all, it is a step forward for rabbit neglect cases in Santa Cruz County. Animal abuse/neglect in not acceptable and there are consequences- Conviction and jail time plus probation and the conditions set forth by the DA will help to prevent this person from injuring additional Rabbits or other animals. The DA , NICOLE JONES did an excellent job. Ms. Jones was articulate , well informed and fair given the constraints she faced. May rabbits everywhere be treated with love, respect and given the very best care.

Note: Please report any case of neglect or abuse that you see. Remember you are the voice of these animals. Speak up!

January 19, 2012
The rescue of all 127 confiscated rabbits began on November 7 and was completed on December 17, just 44 days after they were mercifully confiscated from inhumane conditions by Todd Stosuy and Carlos Montes, Santa Cruz County Animal Control officers. The breeder from Aptos is facing 114 counts of animal cruelty.

The Rabbit Haven was called in to help and we arrived on November 7. Haven staff moved into action immediately and began the initial evaluations, sexing and caring for rabbits at both Santa Cruz and Watsonville shelters. Working alongside of the shelter staff, Haven volunteers set up medical triage, evaluations, and housing for the rabbits. That day, several very ill rabbits were taken to Aptos Creekside Animal Hospital for urgent care. The Haven also provided initial grooming, vet transports, vet assistance, gathered supplies needed and volunteers to provide care at both shelters.

Haven Web posts went out instantly thanks to our web master, Ray Milkey. I really appreciate all of the time that went into the updates and posting. Alongside of the web, our social network lit up due to the efforts of Mari Rodriquez who manages all of our Twitter and Face book posting- networking for the rabbits! It was awesome work, and all for the love of the rabbits!

We began immediately to gather the supplies needed and to recruit volunteers in support of this large number of rabbits. No small shelter can manage such a large number alone. Our shelter was extremely cooperative and offered all the space needed for the rabbits and our staff. Together, we managed to put together a workable care system for all of the rabbits.

Haven volunteers brought in all food, litter and other initial supplies needed for rabbits, including towels, litter boxes, litter and dishes for food and water. We continued to supply the SC shelter site for the duration of the shelter stay. The Haven provided provisions and care, and the shelters provided the facilities and staff needed to support the project. Medications were provided by the shelter. Vet support was offered by the shelter and The Haven. Haven's objective was to take on the care so the shelter would not have to utilize their staff to perform these day to day functions. We also wanted to purchase the supply to prevent a financial Drain on this shelter system that has such limited funds.

The rabbits that arrived from the breeder were in very poor condition. Many were skeletal, dehydrated and suffered from skin infections, eye injures, ear injuries, and hock injuries. Several rabbits had bone malformations and many were missing fur from their frail bodies. Many of the rabbits were weak and their eyes were dull. Many sat listless, and the majority suffered from bloated stomachs and other conditions related to lack of basic nutrition and water. They were very frightened and very sensitive to touch.

They came from deplorable and fifthly living conditions. A high percentage of the rabbits had traumatic injuries. Many were missing parts of their bodies; their toes, one was missing her entire front leg and several were missing one or both ears. At first we were not sure if many of the rabbits would live. Happily, with love, food, proper housing and vet support all but one rabbit survived their ordeal. The one rabbit we lost was named Bendi, a sweet rex boy. He had an excellent Vet, Dr. Sarah Hawklyn, and she did everything possible. He was barely able to stand and had difficulty eating. Both foster and the vet worked for several weeks to help him, however his state of health was so diminished that he could not recover. At least he had great vet care, good food to eat and a loving foster mother, Julie Wood, to care for him.

Haven staff provided evaluations for all incoming rabbits and worked with Dr. Hannah Good. Also, several rabbits were taken directly to Dr. Sarah Hawklyn and Dr. Mary Siri during the first week of rescue. We still had several rabbits that needed to be seen, and happily Dr. Stern offered her help. She came in to evaluate another group of the most ill or injured rabbits at no charge. She identified many that needed surgical intervention. Those cases were referred to area vets that work closely with The Rabbit Haven.

Shelter Support was offered by Ben Winkleblack, Animal Shelter Manager and Melinda Sobel, Shelter Executive Director. Technical support was provided by Jennifer Price, Animal Care Supervisor and Sarah Goldberg, Lula and Karen Animal Care technicians at Santa Cruz Shelter. Kiersten Fox and the staff at the Watsonville shelter worked with the Haven at that location. Leslie Andrews, (Santa Cruz and Watsonville Shelter Advocate) offered day to day reports, tracking and essential Haven/shelter interface needed to accomplish this project. Shelter and volunteer scheduling was managed by Susan Cummins. All of this activity occurred alongside of everyone's regular job! An amazing accomplishment.

Initial veterinary services at the shelter were offered by Dr. Hannah Good who was hired by the shelter. Services in the clinic were provided by Dr. Hawklyn and Dr. Siri of Aptos Creekside Animal Hospital. Then, when additional rabbits had to be seen, Dr. Stern graciously offered to come in to evaluate and treat the remaining rabbits in need. She donated her time to see the shelter rabbits. She recommended medical and surgical support for scores of the sick or injured rabbits. Dr. Hawklyn, and Dr. Siri of Aptos Creekside and Dr. Stern and Dr. Sullenberger of Animal Hospital of Soquel provided surgical care for our most critically injured rabbits, discounting their services and fees. Recently, Dr. Gratzek, eye specialist, joined the group and donated her surgical skill to help tiny Beau, the dwarf bunny with a severe eye laceration.

The Rabbit Haven supported the rescue by posting to our web, blogs and other media network sites. Our objective was to keep this rescue in the eye of the public so they could help; and they did. We intended to let the community understand the severity of the Aptos confiscation case, and the media covered this well.

The Santa Cruz and Watsonville community came out in force to help these rabbits! People organized towel and food Drives. Groups brought in toys. Girl scouts held fundraisers and created videos. Annie's Blankets came through with a huge supply of sheets and towels. Penny Mount of Annie's also donated 300 pounds of food for the rabbits. Many individual donors came forward and offered the Haven supply and help. Some of our volunteers also donated bales of hay and supplies, as needed.

Kudos to Scotts Valley Feed for coming through once again in this emergency. They slashed prices and even donated a 50 pound bag of food. They are great people to work with. I called Christine at their store on November 7th to explain what we needed, and they had it in place THAT day!

Together with our community we managed to feed and support all of the confiscated rabbits. This included food, hay, litter boxes, water crocks and all supplies needed for the rabbits. The Haven also brought in all emergency roll-about cage units, plastic enclosures, large dog crates, X pens, 230 bowls, 120 litter boxes and countless bags of litter. Fresh greens were provided by private Haven donors. All the needs of these rabbits were met! Thank you to our donors who helped us with donations of supply and funds to cover the expenses!

FOWAS awarded the Haven $1,500 for services to the 53 rabbits at Watsonville. Their support made it possible for us to serve every single rabbit at that shelter, including a mother who had a litter of five. Their wonderful donation was used to provide supplies, transport, rescue services and medical care needed. To donate to this shelter support group contact: www.fowas.org

FOSCCA stepped up to provide all of the medical supplies needed by the rabbits. This non profit shelter support group also provided funds to cover the costs of exams for several of the most ill rabbits. Medical supplies from FOSCCA included medications, sub Q fluids, and other items that were needed to treat our rescued rabbits. This saved us hundreds of dollars. To donate to this wonderful shelter support group contact: www.foscca.org

Once the basics were covered, we placed urgent appeals for assistance from outside our county, connecting with many other major rabbit rescue organizations to secure recue for many of the rabbits. We transported rabbits to rescue sites within 200 miles of the shelter. These transports were carried out by the tremendous Rabbit Haven and shelter transport teams. One group came all the way up to the shelter to rescue 17 lucky rabbits. Some transporters came all the way from the Bay area to Santa Cruz to help traveling as far away as Roseville and back.

The need for Spay/Neuters was urgent because many rabbits were most likely pregnant. There was no way we could absorb possibly 20-30 new litters. (Possibly another 300 rabbits!) Spay was critical to enable us to move the rabbits out to rescue and adoption. Therefore, The Haven arranged for the spay/neuter of 114 rabbits. We were able to take in this large number through having the low cost clinic arrange seven days of spay/neuters. Transport people truly came out to support these long trips beginning at 7 AM, and ending on some nights as late a 9:30 PM. Thank you to Natasha, Lily, Leslie, Susan, Mark and Bob who helped with the transports of these large groups. Thanks also to Ben (SC shelter manager) who stayed late at the shelter to let in the transport team when they returned.

Our plans for spay/neuter of the entire group had to change when the shelter informed us that they needed the rabbits out by December 17. The shelter gave us until this date to move the rabbits out due to their limited staff resources, mandatory furloughs and funds. So we modified our plan and asked for spay help at low cost in our local veterinarian community.

Dr. Stern responded by offering to put together a spay day at the Santa Cruz shelter. Rabbit Haven helped with this wonderful Spay-a-Thon which was hosted by the SC shelter and organized by Ben Wikleblack) and Dr. Stern. The Santa Cruz Shelter donated all of the surgical supplies needed to help all of these rabbits! This special day was then carried out by Dr. Hawklyn, Dr. Hilary Stern, Dr. Erica Sullenberger, Dee Wright, Tavish Mattisen, and Shanna Tungloong. Several Haven volunteers also assisted in pre and post op areas: Teri Martin, Heidi Rose, Mary and Mark Traque, Cindy Marshall, Lydia Walking and Diana Moll, Heather and Paul Metz Egli.

During this same Spay day, Haven orchestrated another surgical day travelling to a low cost spay clinic. They took in 10 additional rabbits. We needed to be sure that all rabbits were covered. 42 rabbits received services during the Spay-a-Thon day. Staff worked from 7:30 AM until 8 PM that night. We were tired but thrilled at the same time. At the end of the day we went home knowing all of those rabbits were now safe and could move on to adoption and rescue. This was a great accomplishment.

The Rabbit Haven adopted out several of the rabbits after they had been spayed or neutered, and we arranged to have as many rabbits as possible at our adoption shows. Additionally, we set up over 40 new foster sites to manage the incoming rabbits. Supplies from Scotts Valley Feed, Pet Food Express, The Busy Bunny, For Other Living Things, Oxbow Animal Heath, and Pet Pals helped us to be able to set up these new sites, and to provide direct care for the rabbits remaining in shelter housing.

We are deeply grateful for all of our new foster sites that we set up during the months of this rescue. This foster network allowed us to move large numbers from the shelters to help with the overcrowding situations. Foster enabled us to meet our deadline too. The Rabbit Haven removed every single confiscated rabbit from the rescue that was not adopted from the shelter by Saturday December 17 2011!

We are still providing direct medical foster support caring for the most seriously injured from this group. Ruthie, Vinnie, Seraphina, and Beau. All have had serious life saving surgeries. Blessings to Heather and Paul Metz Egli, Linda Lee, Jennifer Jenkins, Julie Wood, Sara and Tammera Clo and who are giving of their talents and time to help these rabbits to heal. Kudos to the doctors who offered the surgeries with a discount: Dr. Erick Sullenberger, Dr. Sara Hawklyn, Dr. Hilary Stern and Dr. Gratzek.

This rescue was accomplished in large measure by the awesome support we have with our rabbit rescue network. Rabbit Haven has an amazing partnership with the rabbit rescue community. The following organizations rescued rabbits from this group. Please contact these groups for information about the rabbits they have available for adoption:

Rabbit Haven volunteers and the rescue community made this successful rescue! We received a wonderful response for our community outreach and generated over 70 volunteers who came forward to help at the shelter, as well as at Rabbit Haven sites. Volunteers were responsible for daily rabbit care, cleaning and playtime as well as all related rescue activity. They created and posted flyers, generated media activity and managed networking. Volunteers helped with transport to spay/neuter as well as to other rescue destinations. Rescue groups took out about half of these rabbits, truly saving their lives. All of these people are so amazing. They took precious time out of their busy lives to stop and help this group of confiscated rabbits.

Volunteers contributed supplies, time, coordinated services, logistics, spay/neuter, surgical post op care, as well as tender loving care of the rabbits in their homes. Veterinarians are also included in this volunteer group. They contributed hours of time simply because they were needed. I am honored to know so many fantastic, generous and compassionate people.

The best news: Update on most injured rabbits: I am happy to report that Ruthie has vastly improved, so much so that she may be available for adoption in just another two weeks! Vinnie is not far behind her and his gentle personality has become even more developed as he has healed and learned to trust. Beau is making great progress. He can eat on his own, breathe without supportive care, and his eye was also saved! Mimzy has gained weight and is now healthy. Alamea is healing and she can now stand on her own. She eats well and she will also be ready for adoption in a few months. Patty P, the earless bunny who you saw in our initial post about the confiscation, has found a loving home. Olaf is with Marcy and Rob, charming them. He is completely healed. Tinkerbell, the bunny missing her front leg went up to HRS and charmed everyone! Every person who took in a rabbit from this group has the nicest comments to make about the rabbit in their care.

We are deeply thankful that the Santa Cruz Animal Control officers closed this breeder and confiscated the animals that were so broken and abused. We are thrilled that the rabbits made it through so well. Everyone involved wanted to help them be safe and to get well and have a good life. For these rabbits, their wishes have come true. Now each day they can wake up safe, healthy, and happy, with plenty of clean space, food and lots of love. Some bunnies even have companions! Who could ask for anything more?

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