Since breaking news about a July 21 raid on a farm 12 miles north of Denver that resulted in local law enforcement officials seizing 193 rabbits from a nationally-recognized rabbit expert, I’ve learned more disturbing details about the case. Perhaps least shocking was my discovery that members of the Denver-area news media appear to have swallowed everything thrown at them by the Jefferson County (Colo.) Sheriff’s Office.
Before pressing on, I’ll recap the lowlights of what transpired after someone placed an anonymous call — the first ever, according to officials with the Sheriff’s Office — to a new statewide Crime Stoppers hotline that had been set up in June, specifically to take reports from citizens of suspected animal abuse:
1. Without a warrant, officials with the Sheriff’s Office descended upon Debe Bell’s Six Bells Farm Candle Factory and Rabbitry at approximately 10:30 a.m., accompanied by three veterinarians and several volunteers from the local branch of the House Rabbit Society — a nationwide group comprised of people who, according to Bell, think rabbits need to be raised like small children.
2. During the next three hours, according to Bell, the throng of law enforcement officers, veterinarians and volunteers opened the doors of her 600-square-foot barn, turned off the water to the swamp cooler (an air conditioning system for the barn) and caused the temperature in the barn to rise to 84 degrees.
3. Some six hours after they arrived, Sheriff’s Office officials produced a warrant which spokesperson Mark Techmeyer said was obtained after they convinced a judge that they had seen “what they believed to be some issues” at Six Bells Farm.
4. During the next four hours, according to Bell, the same throng loaded her rabbits in cardboard boxes, put them in a horse trailer and hauled them off to the county fairgrounds. There, the rabbits were placed in dog and cat crates with solid-bottom floors, meaning, “The minute they urinate, they’re standing in their own urine.”
5. For several days after their arrival at the fairgrounds, Bell said, the crated rabbits were kept in a non-air conditioned concrete-stalls horse barn until officials with the Foothills Animal Shelter — a group tasked by the Sheriff’s Office with caring for the animals — decided that wasn’t working out and obtained a swamp cooler.
As of today, neither the Denver Post nor CBS Denver has seen fit to report on the raid more than one time despite the fact that it contains a plethora of “low-hanging fruit” story angles any investigative reporter worth his salt would die for. For instance:
A. Bell is known statewide and nationally as a top rabbit expert, and she’s relied upon by families involved in at the county, state and national level as the go-to person for children and families in need of help with and knowledge of rabbits. Surely, it would be newsworthy if a woman like her all of the sudden “went bad” like the star of the AMC television series, “Breaking Bad.”
B. According to Berthoud, Colo., attorney Elizabeth Kearney, there was only one dead rabbit in her client’s barn, and all of the other dead rabbits were in her freezer. Why? Because Bell provides rabbit meat to the local zoo and to several raptor rescue groups. That has to be newsworthy, right?
C. Twelve of the seized rabbits belong to 4-H kids who were planning to show them at upcoming fairs — two at the Jefferson County Fair that started Thursday and the remaining 10 at the Colorado State Fair which runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5 in Pueblo. I guarantee Barbara Walters could get those kids to cry and send the ratings through the roof!
D. On the Constitutional rights front, one has to wonder why no one in the Denver news media has explored the subjects of whether it’s lawful for law enforcement agents to (1) step foot on someone’s property without a warrant and (2) seize someone’s private property (livestock) based solely upon an anonymous phone call to a hotline that pays up to $2,000 for tips. Lawyers, please form a line.
E. With animal rights activism forever on the increase, one has to wonder why no one in the Denver news media has explored the possibility that animal rights activists — who would love to see people like Bell put out of business — made the anonymous hotline call. Perhaps the media outlets are afraid of blowback from the animal rights wackos?
F. The shortage of participants at this year’s Small Animals Show at the Colorado State Fair is so severe that officials extended the deadline for entry and, in order to prevent animal rights activists from collecting the names of rabbit owners, officials are planning to not display the names of rabbit owners alongside their rabbits. Why? Because rabbit raisers in Colorado are scared they might suffer the same fate as Six Bells Farm and are not going to show their animals at the Colorado State Fair, Bell said. That has to be news, doesn’t it?
G. Finally, one has to wonder why no one in the Denver news media has reported on Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey‘s role in this case. One year ago last month, Storey charged an 82-year-old man with attempted first-degree murder after that man fired two shots at thieves who he said had tried to run him over with their truck while stealing his flatbed trailer. In short, as reported by Denver’s CW2 channel in the video below, the district attorney seems to have a propensity toward overcharging people. Is he too powerful to expose?
Yes, instead of pursuing this story with so many rich story angles available, two of Colorado’s largest media outlets took passes.
Instead of investigating the news, Shaun Boyd of CBS Denver and Liz Navratil of the Denver Post merely passed along to their audiences what they were fed by Sheriff’s Office spokespersons Jacki Kelley and Mark Techmeyer.
CLOSING THOUGHT: Since publishing my first report, the story has appeared at Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com and garnered quite a bit of attention throughout cyberspace. I’ve even seen suggestions that all loyal, freedom-loving Americans should begin raising rabbits. That in mind, shall we form a “B Party”?
More to come.
UPDATE 8/12/11 at 9:31 p.m. Central: Cross-posted at Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com.
UPDATE 8/13/11 at 8:40 a.m. Central: I added this update to my previous post, but forgot to do it here. A legal defense fund has been established to help Debe Bell. You can make a donation on PayPal (Rabbitdefense@gmail.com) or you can send a check to the address below:
UPDATE 8/13/11 at 7:01 p.m. Central: Denver Post Coverage of Rabbit Raiser Takes 180.
UPDATE 8/14/11 at 8:12 a.m. Central: Cross-posted at Andrew Breitbart’s BigJournalism.com.
UPDATE 8/14 11 at 8:31 a.m. Central: Foothills Animal Shelter will soon start adopting out Debe Bell’s rabbits, according to this announcement.
UPDATE 8/18/11 at 8 p.m. Central: The Denver Post reported this afternoon that the Foothills Animal Shelter has halted adoptions of nearly 200 rabbits seized from an Arvada home last month after the rabbits’ owner filed an emergency motion in court.
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