Peacebunny Foundation president charged with animal cruelty after more than 40 dead rabbits found by police

The mother of a teenager who started a bunny rescue as a 4-H project is now facing animal cruelty charges after officers executed a search warrant at a barn used by the Peacebunny Foundation on June 28.

Stephanie Hope Smith, 51-years-old, faces multiple animal cruelty charges, according to a criminal complaint filed in Scott County.

Savage police officers said they responded to a report of animal neglect at Peacebunny Foundation, which was occupying a barn on June 27. The 911 caller and owner of the property told police that they checked on the rabbits because Smith was on vacation. Police were called when more than 200 rabbits were found in varying states of health, with some dead and others sick.

The complaint states that officers entered the barn and saw several rabbits running loose. Police also reported an overwhelming smell of death, urine, and feces inside the barn. Food bowls were empty and dirty, and many rabbits had injuries.

Officers executed a search warrant the next day. Smith arrived a short time later. A veterinarian was also on scene, the complaint states. While serving the warrant, hundreds of rabbits of various ages were seen running loose inside the barn. There were large piles of manure and straw that some rabbits had burrowed holes into. Some of the rabbits were in cages, but the majority were not.

Two rabbits were euthanized immediately by the vet because one was reportedly suffering from a broken back, and the other was a neonatal that was infested with maggots, according to the complaint.

Other dead rabbits were found underneath plywood floorboards in the barn. The complaint states none of the cages had water in them, and many did not have food.

A report from the veterinarian said a total of 47 rabbits were found dead on arrival. Two adult rabbits were in need of critical care, and two litters of orphaned rabbits were taken. There were 19 rabbits in need of immediate follow-up care. More than 50 caged rabbits and more than 150 free-roaming rabbits were photographed for injuries.

Smith said that she and her husband are the CEOs of Peacebunny Foundation and that it is owned by her teenage son who started the bunny rescue as a 4-H project. The complaint states that Smith agreed that the animals were not being held in proper care. She said the crowding issue came about when the owner began renovating the inside of the barn to create more ventilation.

The Peacebunny Foundation has been featured in several media outlets over the years and is also the subject of a book published last year.