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Rabbit nonprofit CEO faces animal cruelty charges after 47 bunnies found dead in barn

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SAVAGE, Minn. -- The CEO of a local rabbit nonprofit has been charged after police found 47 dead rabbits in a barn and dozens of others injured and needing care.

Staphanie Hope Smith, 51, faces multiple counts of animal cruelty, torture, and abandonment, among others. 

According to the criminal complaint, officers were dispatched to McColl Drive in Savage on Monday, where a property owner reported animal neglect. The owner said that Smith, who rented out a barn on site, was on vacation, and she was worried about the state of the roughly 200 rabbits on the property.

When the property owner went into the barn, she said she found some dead and sick rabbits. Animal control and the humane society responded to the barn, where they found dirty food bowls and rabbits running loose. Officers could smell "death, feces and urine," according to the complaint.

Officers executed a search warrant on the barn on Tuesday. Smith arrived on site shortly after.

A humane society veterinarian was also at the site, and immediately euthanized two rabbits due to injuries. There were dozens of dead rabbits in the barn, court documents say.

Later, the veterinarian reported an additional two litters of orphaned bunnies and 19 rabbits in need of immediate attention. There were an additional 50 caged rabbits and 150 rabbits photographed for injuries.

Smith, according to the complaint, confirmed that she was the CEO of Peace Bunny Foundation along with her husband, though the actual owner of the rabbits was her son, a 17-year-old who founded the rabbit rescue as part of a 4-H project. She agreed that the condition of the animals was not appropriate, and said that most of the bunnies were to be picked up in the next few days by a different group.

She also said the property was in the process of redoing the barn to create more ventilation and clean up the barn, so the bunnies had been moved around, creating a crowding issue.

Smith is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 22. 

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