Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Raid on Hillsboro home reveals four legal rabbits, plus 154 more
Police suspect neglect and abuse caused the deaths of nearly 100 others, found in freezers
October, 2006 - By John Snell (The Oregonian)

Miriam E. Sakewitz loves rabbits. She's 44, but still has a small collection of stuffed rabbits in her bedroom. On Monday morning, police also found more than 150 live rabbits in Sakewitz's Hillsboro home. The bodies of nearly a hundred more were found inside three refrigerator-freezers. The animals died of neglect and abuse, said Hillsboro police Cmdr. Chris Skinner. He said the animals suffered starvation, dehydration and health problems caused by being stuffed in cages and seldom let out.

Skinner said eight of the 158 live rabbits found in Sakewitz's home at 1841 N.E. 23rd Court needed emergency veterinary care. The rest of the rabbits were healthy, said Lt. Michael Rouches, Hillsboro Police Department spokesman. People can legally own four rabbits within Hillsboro city limits.

Skinner said the smell of feces and ammonia coming from the ranch house on a cul-de-sac west of the Hillsboro Airport was overpowering. One of Sakewitz's neighbors said he agreed to help her install security cameras in her living room. She said she needed them to monitor the rabbits because someone was coming inside and killing them.

"When the wind was right it smelled like the county fair," said the neighbor, who refused to give his name, saying he feared retribution. Another neighbor whom Sakewitz invited into her home said, "You could open up a bottle of ammonia and it would be a fresher, cleaner smell." By late Monday afternoon police had found 88 dead rabbits in the house. "I think they would die and instead of disposing of them in a garbage can, she'd wrap them in a towel and put them in a freezer," Skinner said. "Over the past several months we negotiated with attorneys to come on the property."

The problem came to a head several months ago, he said, when the bodies of dead rabbits were found on neighbors' lawns.

Skinner said Sakewitz's lawyers successfully kept police at bay. Sakewitz maintained that she was attending to the animals' needs and that her neighbors were capturing the rabbits and torturing them. Sakewitz recently told neighbors she had lost "a ton of rabbits" in the unseasonably warm weather. Skinner said Sakewitz also kept large numbers of rabbits when she lived in Milwaukie in 2005.

Skinner said the remark about "a ton of rabbits" dying in the heat, coupled with her history in Clackamas County, allowed Hillsboro Police to get the warrant served Monday. A decision on whether to charge Sakewitz is expected to come in the next few days, Skinner said.

Washington County Animal Control, which helped dispose of the dead animals and offered veterinary care for the live ones, and the Oregon Humane Society, whose investigators specialize in animal abuse and neglect cases, assisted police in Monday's work.

Police seize rabbits -- again
Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007 The Oregonian
The owner, Miriam Sakewitz, now faces burglary and neglect charges

HILLSBORO -- For months, more than 200 rabbits were kept under lock and key in an undisclosed location -- evidence in one of Oregon's largest animal neglect cases.

Tended by volunteers, they were fed, cushioned with hay and after a brief period of unexpected mating, separated by sex. They were living with comforts they had never experienced, police said. Then one night, a chain-link fence was cut, a steel door was pried open and 130 of the bunnies were gone. Police quickly zeroed in on the rabbits' original owner: Miriam E. Sakewitz.

Following a weeklong investigation, the 44-year-old Hillsboro woman was arrested Monday in Chehalis, Wash. In her car, police said, they found nine live rabbits, one dead rabbit and a gold fish in a fish bowl. The other missing rabbits were recovered at a nearby horse farm, where police said Sakewitz stashed them after stealing them from the Hillsboro safe house Jan. 14. "I'm sitting in church on Sunday, and I get a call that the rabbits have been stolen," Hillsboro police Lt. Michael Rouches said. "It took 20 minutes to convince me. This case just keeps getting crazier and crazier."

In October, Hillsboro police seized 158 live rabbits from Sakewitz's home and found nearly 100 dead ones in three freezers. She was charged with 92 counts of first-degree animal neglect and 165 counts of second-degree animal neglect.

Sakewitz was ordered to post an $85,000 bond by Jan. 17 or the rabbits would become available for adoption. Two days before the bunnies disappeared, Sakewitz repeatedly asked Rouches if police would return 75 of her favorites. "She was very respectful but had a desperation, that 'I need my rabbits,' " said Rouches, who told Sakewitz she had to wait for the court to rule on the case.

Over the weekend a worried motel clerk in Chehalis called police, Hillsboro police Cmdr. Chris Skinner said. Sakewitz, he said, had rented a moving truck, stolen the rabbits and driven to a horse farm near Chehalis along Interstate 5.

Skinner said Sakewitz checked into a motel and asked the clerk for a ride. During the drive, Sakewitz spoke so obsessively of rabbits that the clerk became concerned. The clerk used a Google search to find online stories about Sakewitz's criminal case and informed police.

Chehalis police put Sakewitz under surveillance. They spotted her loading up on rabbit food and driving to a horse farm. And at 3:30 p.m. Monday, they stopped her. In addition to the 10 rabbits in the car, authorities recovered 132 at the horse farm, where two more were found dead.

Sakewitz could face burglary and evidence tampering charges after she is extradited from Washington, Rouches said. The rabbits were returned to Hillsboro on Tuesday. "We love these rabbits, but we're ready to get out of the rabbit business," Rouches said. The animals should be available for adoption shortly, Skinner said. For information, call Hillsboro's code enforcement team at 503-615-6645.

As for the rabbits, police started with 158 but there's no telling how many they'll end up with --especially after Sakewitz mingled the animals again. "You see where I am going with this?" Skinner said.

Ex-owner challenges bunny adoption blitz

Friday, Feb. 2, 2007 The Oregonian

More than 150 rabbits scheduled for adoption in an event called the Super Bowl Saturday Bunny Blitz will continue to be guests of the Hillsboro Police Department for perhaps another two weeks.

An attorney for Miriam Sakewitz challenged the constitutionality of her forfeiture of the rabbits, and at 5 p.m. Thursday, the Oregon Supreme Court told the city to stop Saturday's event. "We're told we will have the rabbits for about another two weeks, which is a real burden on us, because we've had them for most of the time since we seized them last Oct. 16," said Hillsboro Cmdr. Chris Skinner.

Sakewitz, 44, is accused of breaking into the pen last month and hauling away most of the rabbits, which were recaptured a week later. She has been indicted for burglary, theft, criminal mischief and tampering with evidence. She was earlier indicted for 165 counts of animal neglect.

"It costs $2 per rabbit per day to keep them," Skinner said. "We've had great help from volunteers, and businesses and individuals have donated food and bedding, but it's still expensive. Also since she has already stolen the rabbits once, we have to put on extra security to keep her from doing it again." The rabbits had been separated by gender, but since they were re-stolen, some are evidently pregnant, Skinner said.  -- Ted Mahar

No bunny adoption bonanza for Hillsboro, for now  

Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007 Kathleen Gorman, The Oregonian

A woman who faces animal abuse charges has taken the case to the top court. By tapping a law usually applied to property seized from drug dealers, Miriam Sakewitz will keep Hillsboro police in the bunny business for at least a few more weeks. An attorney for Sakewitz, a Hillsboro woman charged with neglecting dozens of rabbits, argues that authorities have no right to sell her animals because she hasn't been convicted of a crime.

In a petition filed this week with the Oregon Supreme Court, Adam Dean cited a constitutional amendment approved by Oregon voters in 2000. Dean argues the law often used in drug cases also applies to Sakewitz's situation. The state's highest court is expected to respond in a few weeks.

The legal move canceled today's planned adoption of more than 150 of the rabbits in an event called the Super Bowl Saturday Bunny Blitz. Instead, the Hillsboro Police Department, along with volunteers, will continue to care for Sakewitz's rabbits and their quickly increasing progeny. "We're all so fed up with this case," said Hillsboro police Cmdr. Chris Skinner. "We're all very, very hopeful that it will be over soon."

In October, police seized 158 live rabbits from Sakewitz's home and found nearly 100 dead rabbits in freezers and other storage containers. She was charged with more than 250 counts of first- and second-degree animal neglect.

Sakewitz was ordered to post an $85,000 bond by Jan. 17 or the rabbits would become available for adoption. In the days leading up to that date, Sakewitz repeatedly asked Hillsboro police if they would return 75 of her favorite animals. Police denied her requests.

On Jan. 14, police said, someone cut a chain-link fence, pried open a steel door and took about 130 of the more than 200 rabbits kept at a Hillsboro building. After a weeklong investigation, police arrested Sakewitz in Chehalis, Wash. In her car, police said, they found nine live rabbits and one dead rabbit. The other missing rabbits were recovered at a nearby horse farm.

Sakewitz is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 12 on multiple charges in connection with that break-in. A grand jury this week indicted her on three counts of second-degree burglary, one count of second-degree theft, one count of criminal mischief and one count of tampering with evidence.

She is expected to go on trial Feb. 14 on the misdemeanor animal neglect charges. Those have been reduced to 30 counts for the sake of efficiency, but it still is "the largest charging document I've ever printed out," said Matthew Hall, deputy district attorney, who is prosecuting the case.

Meanwhile, Hillsboro police say it is difficult to estimate how many rabbits are in their care. The stolen rabbits were mingled and some are visibly pregnant. "There's no way to estimate what we might be looking at," Skinner said. "I just don't know."

Hillsboro rabbit hoarder ordered to jail for violating probation

August 09, 2007 The Oregonian

HILLSBORO -- A Washington County judge today ordered a Hillsboro rabbit hoarder to three days in jail for violating her probation. Sakewitz was convicted this spring in one of Oregon's largest animal-neglect cases. She was accused earlier this summer of violating her probation by having more rabbits in her home.

At this morning's hearing, Circuit Judge Steven L. Price also continued the other conditions of Miriam Elaine Sakewitz's probation, which are that she not possess or control any kind of animal, that she get a psychological evaluation and that she attend mental health counseling. She also must allow a probation officer to visit her home to check for compliance. Price also ordered that she not be within 100 yards of a rabbit during the rest of her five-year probation.

Susan Ranger, a probation officer with Washington County Community Corrections, testified Thursday that Sakewitz was continually canceling mental health sessions and would not let the probation officer into her house when she heard someone inside. Suspicions arose June 28 when two neighbors said they saw a black rabbit sitting inside Sakewitz's garage window. The neighbors took photos and videos of it.

Sakewitz's defense attorney, Matthew Daily, presented testimony from a friend of the woman who said he took his rabbit with him when he visited her that day. He testified that he, the rabbit and Sakewitz left around 4 p.m., but the neighbor said they saw the rabbit at 7 p.m.

In October, police seized 158 live rabbits from the residence, backyard and shed on Sakewitz's property, in the 1800 block of Northeast 23rd Court in Hillsboro. They also found 88 dead rabbits in freezers and refrigerators.

Sakewitz pleaded no contest to five counts each of first- and second-degree animal neglect April 10. She also pleaded no contest to second-degree criminal mischief and tampering with evidence for breaking into the secret location where police were holding the rabbits in January. She was arrested a few days later in Washington and charged with stealing more than 100 of the animals. After today's hearing, Sakewitz was led away in handcuffs to the Washington County Jail.

Rabbit hoarder arrested with 13 bunnies in Tigard hotel room 

June 17, 2009 John Snell, The Oregonian

A woman who made national headlines in 2006 for keeping more than 200 rabbits in her home was jailed Tuesday after police found her with more than a dozen of the animals in a Tigard hotel room. Police had to break into the room to remove the rabbits and arrest their owner, Miriam Elaine Sakewitz, 47, said Jim Wolf, spokesman for Tigard Police.

Police found 13 live rabbits, and a dead one in the room Sakewitz occupied. There were cages and a pet carrier in the room, Wolf said, but some of the animals were running loose. Wolf said officers were called to the hotel about 3 p.m. Tuesday, after Sakewitz called a maintenance man to the room because the television wasn't working. "Once he got inside, he saw the animals and smelled the odor," Wolf said.  

Wolf said the hotel, Homestead Studio Suites Hotel, at 13009 S.W. 68th Parkway, called police for help in evicting Sakewitz once the rabbits were discovered. When police came to the room, they tried entering it with a hotel key, Wolf said, but the door was blocked by a security bar commonly found in place of door chains.  

Tigard police on Tuesday found 13 rabbits, and one dead one, in a hotel room occupied by Miriam Sakewitz. Some were caged; others were running loose. Wolf said officers tried to get Sakewitz to open the door, but she wouldn't answer, so they forced the door open. Wolf said Sakewitz had been staying at the extended-stay hotel for several months. Hotel management did not returns calls for comment.  

Eight adult rabbits and five babies were found inside the room, Wolf said, as well as the body of one dead baby rabbit. 

Sakewitz received national attention in 2006 when police seized 250 rabbits -- including 88 dead ones in freezers -- from her Hillsboro home. She was convicted on animal neglect charges and released on 10 years probation. As a condition of her release, Sakewitz was ordered not to keep pets and stay at least 100 yards away from rabbits. Sakewitz has a history of violating court orders. She was charged in 2008 for having a rabbit and a dog in her home and for contacting two of her former attorneys against court orders.  

She also was accused of not paying restitution to Washington County for the care of the rabbits that originally were seized. Her vet bills and the restitution came to more than $19,000. Sakewitz also was ordered to receive mental health care as a condition of her original probation. 

She was arraigned Wednesday afternoon and held without bail in the Washington County Jail on charges of violating the terms of her probation. Her next court appearance is at 1:30 p.m. June 26.  

The rabbits seized Tuesday were taken to the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter in Hillsboro. On Wednesday, they were transferred to the care of the Oregon Humane Society, spokesman David Lytle said, and would be put up for adoption as soon as their condition and age would allow it.  

Posted June 19, 2009 by rabbitadbc@shaw.ca

Clearly this woman needs help and should never have any animal ever again. Too many rabbits have suffered and died at her hands. We need tougher laws to protect animals from people like her. www.rabbitadvocacy.com

Update: Because of jail crowding Ms. Sakewitz was released the following day. Hoarding is a mental health issue and animal hoarding is a form of abuse. Most people, the majority of whom are women, are chronic offenders. If you know of someone involved in animal hoarding, please report them to the appropriate authorities before a situation gets out of hand. Hoarders put their need to accumulate and control ahead of providing even the basic care to their victims. These innocent animals are at their mercy.

Man charged with animal abuse

August 15, 2011 rpoliakov@thesudburystar.com

SUDBURY, Ont. - Haviva Porter is overrun by rabbits. The executive director of the Rabbit Rescue in Milton, Ont., recently received 103 rabbits from the Sudbury area, many of which had respiratory infections, parasites and, in the case of one, needed to have its eye removed.

These rabbits were part of the 400 taken by the Ontario SPCA in May from a Manitoulin Island, Ont., property. Hendrick Reckman of Manitoulin Island was charged Monday with 26 counts of animal cruelty after the SPCA got an animal care complaint.

These charges include five counts of permitting animals to be in distress, five counts of failing to provide necessary care for general welfare and one count of failing to kill an animal humanely. If convicted, Reckman could face a $60,000 fine, up to two years in jail and a lifetime ban from owning pets.

SPCA staff found the rabbits living in poor sanitary conditions, said Allison Cross, of the SPCA. More than 200 rabbits had to be put down. The remaining rabbits were cared for and sent out to several animal care and rescue shelters throughout Ontario, Cross said, adding that some will stay in Sudbury.

Milton's Rabbit Rescue decided to help about half of the rabbits find homes. "We took in 103. Most of them have been quite sick," said Porter, who has already adopted out some of the rabbits. Others are still suffering from respiratory infections and recovering from surgeries like an eye removal and a mastectomy. "It was quite intensive. (They had) every condition you can think of. Some had parasites ... the majority are still undergoing treatment for various things," she said. "A lot of them were quite scared, but the foster families have been working with them. They're turning out to be really nice bunnies."

While it took a while to socialize the animals, around 10 to 15 have already been adopted out in the area. But treatment hasn't been cheap. "We try to prepare as well as we can, but nothing can prepare you, really. It's been non-stop. We're looking at over $10,000 a month for medical care for these bunnies right now."

These rabbits are the most recent example of animal hoarding, which often leads to unsanitary conditions and sick pets.

For Cross, animal hoarding isn't new. The SPCA removed about 300 animals from a home near Peterborough, Ont., earlier this year and more than 100 cats from a Toronto home in the spring.

"The concern with animal hoarding in general is the animals aren't getting the proper care. Because there's so many, it's hard to care for them," she said. "The majority of the time, we see (pet owners) genuinely care emotionally for the animals. They do want to help the animals, but unfortunately, they're unable to provide the care they need."

To Porter, rabbits make a great pet, if given proper care. "I think rabbits take a certain type of person. I think there's a lot of misinformation about rabbits," she said, adding that, like a cat or dog, they need to be around people. "Rabbits are such gentle, loving animals. They make fabulous pets if you are prepared to take on the responsibility of one," she said. For more information or to donate to the Rabbit Rescue in Milton, visit www.rabbitrescue.ca. For a list of shelters that took in the rabbits, visit the Ontario SPCA's Facebook page.

Comment: This is another dreadful case of animal cruelty, whether it was hoarding or not, but most certainly criminal in nature. In hoarding cases, criminal prosecution can be a difficult process and may not be the most effective route. Hoarding is a form of mental illness. In the majority of such cases, the hoarder firmly believes that they havenít committed a wrong, and that the animals cannot survive without their "care.Ē Dead animals are frequently found in the freezer or refrigerator, or laying dead among the filth of the premises or property. Itís a slow death, full of suffering and illness for the creatures that fall victim to a hoarder. For the animal, the community, and the person, if you suspect a problem, report concerns to appropriate authorities and agencies.

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