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Girl, 9, 'Cuffed For Rabbit Heist

A 9-year-old girl accused of stealing a rabbit and $10 from a neighbor's home was arrested, handcuffed and questioned at a Florida police station.

A Pasco County sheriff's deputy found the black-and-white rabbit, named Oreo, hopping around in the girl's living room, according to the arrest report. She was read her rights and taken away in the back of a patrol car.

The girl, Stephanie Jefferson, began to cry during questioning Tuesday. She admitted taking the rabbit belonging to another child, but denied taking two $5 bills and some change, according to reports.

It was hardly the crime of the century, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann. But the girl's mother told CBS News she's upset at the way police treated her daughter.

"I want to know how this officer would feel if I handcuffed his child who was only nine," said the girl's mother, Star Spearel.

"I think this is a little unusual to say the very least," Cecka Green of Voices for Florida's Children said.

"To treat children as hardened criminals, when back in the old days that may have just been seen as mischief that could have been handled by the parents, can contribute to some problems with our kids in this society."

Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll defended the arrest, and said if the victim of a crime wants an arrest, deputies are required to act if there is enough evidence.

"Somebody entered a residence without permission and stole money and a pet rabbit. That's burglary," Doll told the St. Petersburg Times. "I don't know what other explanation you need. Nine years old is enough to know right from wrong."

Lori Ventura, the mother of the child who owns the rabbit, said the girl has been involved in other incidents and needs help.

The deputy could have taken a report and referred the charges to the state attorney, said Pasco-Pinellas Public Defender Bob Dillinger.

There's just a lot of other things you can do with a third-grader," he said. "There are alternatives other than a simple arrest."

Stephanie was released to her mother from a juvenile assessment center about an hour after her arrest, which she said was scary. She also didn't like the deputy.

"He put one handcuff on me really tight," she said Thursday. In the patrol car, "He just stared at me in the mirror."