INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Officials say Animal Care and Control officers seized more than 375 rabbits, many of which were babies, from a south side Indianapolis home Tuesday.
Animal Care and Control went to the home in the 7000 block of Alston Drive, rounding up the rabbits after a search warrant was served.
About one-third of the rabbits were living in a two-car garage, Animal Care and Control officials said. Others were in a lean-to style shed under a tree.
Investigators with Animal Care and Control had visited the same home about a month ago after receiving a complaint about the smell. At that time, they discovered there was no water in many of the rabbits' bowls. They say they found rabbits in their own feces and urine, with urine burns. He said some hadn't moved in so long the fur rubbed off their pads.
"The animals themselves are in good condition. The living conditions they're in are deplorable," said Marcus Brown, Deputy Chief of Enforcement for IACC. Officials say they gave the owner, Rick Cartheuser, a month to clean it up.
Last week, crews returned to check on the situation again.
"It's gotten to the point where it's out of control," said Brown. He said nothing had changed.
The owner of the rabbits is Rick Cartheuser. He says he is the Vice President of a national rabbit club, and is also listed online as the Vice President of the Indiana State Rabbit Breeders Association.
He told 24-Hour News 8 he was shocked and saddened to hear what had happened; he was out of town working Tuesday when officials came to remove the animals. Cartheuser says the rabbits are used for breeding and for show, and he also sells them. He says he couldn't believe officials not only took the rabbits, but they took his three dogs as well.
"I worked awful hard to try to make some changes," said Cartheuser, in a phone interview. "The initial complaint was, there was an odor. I had purchased a large industrial fan to help move air; we had reduced the number of cages and rabbits. They all seemed very healthy and well taken care of."
Brown explained they'd wanted to work with Cartheuser, and didn't want it to come to this, but he added, "They hadn't done anything to make things better."
Although it's not against law or city ordinance to have that many rabbits, Animal Care and Control officials said Cartheuser faces care and treatment violations. The city prosecutor was also at the scene Tuesday, and said he could face a maximum fine of up to $2500 dollars, per animal, per violation. He also will have to pay fees to Animal Care and Control for housing and taking care of the rabbits.
Brown says he will be able to get his animals back if he keeps the area clean, but will have to pay the assigned fees. Cartheuser says he lost his job in December, and won't have the money to get them all back. Cartheuser will likely be in court next week.
The right two lanes of Interstate 70 east near Interstate 465 were closed Tuesday evening due to a crash.
If you're looking for something to do over the next seven days you may want to check out Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
On Tuesday, Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite will promote 23 officers. Three sergeants will be elevated to the rank of lieutenant. Twenty patrol officers will be promoted to the rank of sergeant.