When police arrived at a barn in Savage, Minnesota on Monday to investigate animal cruelty tied to a well-known rabbit rescue non-profit, "the smell of death, feces and urine was overwhelming."
That's according to charges filed in Scott County on Friday, alleging 51-year-old Stephanie H. Smith's cruelty towards her organization's rabbits amounts to two felonies and three misdemeanors.
Smith serves as the president of the Peacebunny Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit bunny rescue led by her teenage son, who turns 18 on Monday.
Since 2017, Peacebunny Cottage, as the farm in Savage became known, has been home base for the organization's purported endeavor to train endangered rabbits and spread joy on a 22-acre private island on the Mississippi River called Peacebunny Island.
The tale — told in a book by Smith's son — has been recounted by numerous national press outlets over the years, including People Magazine, The Washington Post and NBC’s Today Show.
Police were called to the organization's rented barn in Savage on Monday when the property owner reported the conditions while the Smiths were out of town.
According to the criminal complaint, 47 rabbits were found dead inside the barn and several hundred others were running loose, some burrowing into piles of manure and straw.
A veterinarian assisting investigators immediately euthanized two rabbits due to "irremediable suffering" — one had a broken back and another was infested with maggots.
Almost none of the cages had water for the rabbits, charges state, and several lacked food. Many rabbits were injured.
Investigators believe the neglect and cruelty discovered at the property "did not occur overnight," according to a search warrant filed in Scott County.
"I observed babies that were so tiny, they were able to get through the metal of their enclosures and then had difficulties getting back into the cages of where l observed larger adult rabbits, assumed to be their mothers," a police investigator wrote. "Some dishes were too big for these little bunnies to drink from and one almost fell into the bowl trying desperately to drink."
Smith could face up to 4 years in prison and $13,000 in fines if convicted.
Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar said his office will hold a press conference regarding the case on Tuesday.