Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Re: Five Years Probation for Debe Bell’s Animal Cruelty Convictions 

Jefferson County News

(GOLDEN, CO — March 20, 2012) An Arvada woman was in court today to be sentenced for animal cruelty after Jefferson County Animal Control officers removed almost 200 rabbits from her property last summer. 

Debe Bell, 59, was granted five years supervised probation with the following conditions: that she not own or possess more than 25 animals of any one species; that any animals she owns or possesses be properly cared for; that she allow for unannounced welfare checks from the Animal Control department; that she maintain all necessary licenses; that she complete 250 hours of community service; and that she not make a profit from speaking about this case. Bell was also given the mandatory minimum $500 fine. 

Following up on a Crime Stoppers tip, the Jefferson County Sheriff Animal Control officers went to Six Bells Farm, at 12820 W. 75th Avenue, in Arvada, on July 21, 2011, to conduct a welfare check on rabbits at the property owned and operated by Debe Bell.   

Animal Control officers found deplorable conditions in a shed where 193 rabbits were housed.  The shed was hot, 84 degrees, with little light and inadequate ventilation. The cages housing the rabbits were urine-soaked, caked in feces, and had little or no food. With few exceptions, they had no water. The animals were dehydrated. Many were severely matted, some with urine and feces matted and caked into their fur.

Bell raised and bred rabbits. She had previously been licensed as a small animal breeder, but at the time the rabbits were removed from her property she was not licensed.  She surrendered the animals to the Animal Control officers. 

In January a Jefferson County jury found Debe Bell guilty of 35 counts of animal cruelty for the treatment of rabbits on her property. Throughout the court proceedings Debe Bell has insisted that she ran a “livestock” operation, that her treatment of the rabbits should be evaluated as such, and that she should not be charged with animal cruelty.  Judge Tammy Greene said that the animal cruelty statute would not apply if the animals met the definition of “livestock”.  However, she went on to say that according to Colorado law, 18-9-201(2.9) “Livestock” means bovine, camelids, caprine, equine, ovine, porcine and poultry. Rabbits are not included in the statutory definition. 

Judge Greene told Debe Bell at today’s sentencing hearing that she still had not heard Ms. Bell take responsibility for the condition of the rabbits.  

A point of contention throughout the court process was a definition of “accepted animal husbandry practices.” During the trial, both sides put on experts testifying to their position.  According to Judge Greene, after looking closely at the evidence, the jury determined that Debe Bell’s care of the rabbits did not meet the accepted practices.