Peacebunny barn lease up Aug. 10, owner to appear in court Aug. 22
The owner of Peacebunny Foundation is set to appear in court this month for five animal cruelty and neglect charges, according to Minnesota court records.
Accusations include a felony animal torture, felony animal cruelty, misdemeanor deprivation of food, misdemeanor unwholesome enclosure and misdemeanor abandonment.
51-year old Stephanie Hope Smith of Bloomington is scheduled to make her first appearance the morning of Aug. 22.
The Certificate of Representation in the criminal case lists Stephen Foertsch of Bruno Law as the defense attorney.
Although Stephanie faces the charges as the legal owner of the organization, the face of the operation is her teenage son, Caleb.
Caleb has frequently modified his Peacebunny website statement in response to the investigation, for which the latest timestamp is July 23.
“To my understanding of process, the investigation is ongoing and the next step is for experts to check in on the rabbits this week. Then a few days later, the investigation team will follow up, documenting improvements and any continued concerns and will make final recommendations. City law enforcement stopped by again today for a visit to share updates on the process,’” Caleb included in the July 23 update.
Caleb maintains in the revised statements that he will personally pay any fines without help from donations to the organization.
Stephanie amended Caleb’s statement with a “short-term action plan” through Wednesday, Aug. 10. She highlights multiple decisions the family has for the living rabbits and the investigation.
The Peacebunny Foundation is still in possession of many rabbits, which it says will care for with transparency as it determines the next steps.
“We are renting the barn at the farm rented through August 10, so that will allow time to start to come up with a new long term care plan and determine if the rabbits will be decentralized/dispersed. All foster families continue to have the option to adopt,” Stephanie wrote.
No new rabbits are being accepted at this time.
Stephanie says no events will be added to the calendar until the legal process ends, and if the business folds, remaining money will be given to other animal-based organizations.
The Smith family says they will not give any statements to media, except for the one they are updating on the Peacebunny website.
“It’s not the time or place for us to share. We do not intend to engage with anyone commenting here or on social media, nor to share any more details for now,” Stephanie wrote.
The most recent modification of the Peacebunny statement can be found here.
The self-named animal defense organization In Defense of Animals has created a petition to apply pressure during the legal process:
“Please show your support for Assistant District Attorney Michael Groh in his prosecution of this case, and urge him to consider additional charges for fraud, mandate the removal of the rest of the rabbits, and ensure the Smith’s mother and son team cannot continue exploiting them in the future. Additionally, they should not be allowed to live with animals or be responsible for their care ever again, and receive psychiatric evaluations and counseling may be in order for all as well.”
The petition states the Peacebunny Foundation, registered as a 501c3 nonprofit, is a “fake” rescue.
KSTP previously reported on the search and rabbit seizure at “Peacebunny Cottage.” Links to initial coverage can be found at the bottom of this article.
A veterinarian report early in the investigation said 47 rabbits were found dead on responders’ 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, with more than 50 caged rabbits and more than 150 free-roaming rabbits photographed for injuries.