Rush Limbaugh Newsletter Carries Rabbit Regulation Report

Today, I discovered the hare-brained story I wrote about Marty Hahne (a.k.a., “Marty the Magician”) being required by the USDA to write a disaster plan for the three-pound rabbit he uses in his magic show is featured on page 4 of the September 2013 edition of The Limbaugh Letter!

Limbaugh Letter Sept 2013This news comes one day after I learned that the Ozark, Mo.-based magician had traveled to New York City to be interviewed Friday by John Stossel for an upcoming Fox Business Network special about strange government regulations that should air in October.

Talk about a story having legs!  It’s been hopping coast to coast now for 64 days!

For previous stories about Hahne and others being harassed by USDA officials, read my series, Chasing Rabbits.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct '11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May '13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August (Oct ’11) and THE CLAPPER MEMO (May ’13). To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Missouri Appeals Court Rules Against Floating Horse Teeth

Almost 18 months ago, I shared the news:   Floating Horse Teeth Goes on Trial in Missouri.  Admittedly one of the strangest headlines I’ve ever written, the story had to do with Brooke Gray’s desire to continue practicing her profession of caring for horse teeth (i.e., “floating horse teeth”) in the state of Missouri.  Yesterday, I learned from the folks at the Freedom Center of Missouri that Gray appears to have lost her right to practice her profession in the Show-Me State.

In early January 2012, the Clinton County Circuit Court in Plattsburg, Mo., ruled that it can and will enforce a state law that forbids any non-veterinarian to accept payment for providing basic animal husbandry services.  The judgment allowed Gray, a young woman with eight years’ training and experience at removing sharp enamel points from horses’ teeth, to continue assisting Missouri’s animal owners—but if she gets paid for her efforts, she will be fined and possibly sent to jail.  The Freedom Center of Missouri, which represents Gray, had argued that the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions protect a citizen’s right to earn a living providing basic animal husbandry services.

Now, fast forward to present.  According to the Center‘s Dave Roland, the Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the state can make it a criminal offense for non-veterinarians to provide basic animal husbandry services to Missouri’s livestock owners.

Noting that the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board had threatened criminal prosecution against a wide range of animal husbandry workers, including those engaged in such common, basic tasks as castrating or dehorning cattle, Roland explained, the court ruled the government may impose criminal penalties if these non-veterinarian workers are paid for their labor, despite long-recognized constitutional rights to earn a living in a common occupation and to enjoy the gains of one’s industry.

The decision came despite the fact that non-veterinarians have performed this task for hundreds of years in order to improve horses’ comfort and ability to perform for their owners.

“The court’s ruling effectively strips the right to enjoy the gains of your own industry clean out of the Missouri Constitution,” Roland said.  “What good is a constitutional right if the government can simply declare that it no longer applies?”

Gray was baffled by the court’s decision.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” she said.  “I’m helping horses and horse owners, not hurting them.  The court seemed to confirm that literally anyone is lawfully permitted to do this kind of work and that it is the sort of ‘industry’ addressed in the Missouri Constitution.  So why is it a criminal offense if a grateful horse owner pays me for doing that work?  It just doesn’t make sense.”

The appellate opinion also stated that while the work itself might be legal, it would be illegal for Gray to tell anyone else about her skills – despite the fact that this issue was not raised as part of the appeal.  The trial court had concluded that the government was not seeking to prevent Gray from sharing any information about her knowledge and ability, and the trial court expressly declined to include any such prohibition in its injunction.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has made abundantly clear that the government has no power to prevent citizens from sharing truthful information,” Roland explained.  “Brooke is very good at what she does and she has every right to tell other people about it, especially when the work that she’s talking about is perfectly legal.”

The Freedom Center of Missouri intends to seek further judicial review of Gray’s case.

“Missouri is home to thousands of workers who have for decades safely and affordably helped farmers and ranchers manage their livestock,” Roland said.  “Their services are essential to this state’s animal agriculture industry and both our state and federal constitutions guarantee these folks the right to get paid for their work.  We’re going to keep fighting to make sure that those constitutional guarantees have real meaning.”

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Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Floating Horse Teeth Goes on Trial in Missouri

Brooke Gray has never had a client complain about her work, and several licensed veterinarians in Missouri have been so impressed with her abilities that they refer clients to her and they even entrust their own horses to Gray’s care.  Still, because one licensed veterinarian wanted to eliminate competition from people like Gray, the government is now attempting to make Gray the first non-veterinarian animal husbandry worker in Missouri to be stripped of her right to earn a living.

At 9 a.m. Central Monday, Gray will be represented by attorney Dave Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri as she fights for the right to practice her profession in a courtroom inside the Clinton County (Mo.) Courthouse in Plattsburg.

What does Gray do that makes her such a threat to veterinarians?  She floats horse teeth.   If you’re not familiar with that specialty, watch the video below, and I think you’ll understand.

Throughout Missouri history, farmers and ranchers who needed help with branding cattle, castrating hogs or shoeing horses, they could call upon a neighbor or a skilled temporary worker, according to a Freedom Center news release.  Even after the state of Missouri began regulating the practice of veterinary medicine in the early 1900s, no one ever thought the law would prevent non-veterinarians from providing this state’s animal owners with basic animal husbandry services.  Today, things have changed.

Missouri’s livestock industry currently depends on as many as 10,000 non-veterinarian workers who help service this state’s 3.9 million cattle, 2.9 million hogs, 81,000 sheep and 281,000 horses – to say nothing of chickens, turkeys, and goats, according to Roland, but the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board has decided that animal owners should no longer be permitted to have neighbors or skilled non-veterinarians assist with their herds.

This case is expected to be decided Tuesday.  Stay tuned for details of how it turns out.

UPDATE 9/28/11 at 9:50 p.m. Central:  Hurry up and wait.

UPDATE 1/05/12 at 4:45 p.m. Central:  Below is the text of some not-so-good news in the form of a news release issued today by the folks at the Freedom Center of Missouri:

Court: Missouri Farmers Must Hire Vets for Basic Animal Care

Hired Hands May Be Prosecuted, If Paid

The Clinton County Circuit Court in Plattsburg, Missouri, has ruled that it can and will enforce a state law that forbids any non-veterinarian to accept payment for providing basic animal husbandry services.  The judgment allows Brooke Gray, a young woman with eight years’ training and experience at removing sharp enamel points from horses’ teeth, to continue assisting Missouri’s animal owners—but if she gets paid for her efforts, she will be fined and possibly sent to jail.  The Freedom Center of Missouri, which represents Gray, had argued that the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions protect a citizen’s right to earn a living providing basic animal husbandry services.

“I just hope that people understand that this case is not just about me,” Gray explained.  “The law makes it a criminal offense for a non-veterinarian to get paid for any act that changes an animal’s physical or mental condition. The Board has already determined that this applies to animal massage, castration and routine vaccinations, and the Board’s executive director even testified that the law could eventually be applied to pet grooming!”

“Missouri is home to thousands of workers who have for decades safely and affordably helped farmers and ranchers manage their livestock,” said Dave Roland, director of litigation for the Freedom Center.  “Their services are essential to this state’s animal agriculture industry.  But in the past few years the state Veterinary Medical Board has been threatening to prosecute these workers simply because animal owners are paying them.  I’m afraid that Brooke’s case is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Gray has never injured an animal and received high praise from the very animal owners the government relied upon to make its case against her, yet the Veterinary Medical Board filed suit against Gray in September 2010, in response to a complaint submitted by a veterinarian in nearby Clay County who sometimes works on horses’ teeth.  That same veterinarian, who has filed similar complaints against several other animal husbandry workers, admitted at trial that he has injured more than one horse in his own efforts to work on their teeth. Two other veterinarians testified in support of Gray, stating that they have been so impressed with her skill that they do not hesitate to recommend her to their own clients; one of those veterinarians has even entrusted Gray with assisting the vet’s own horse.  Several witnesses also testified that due to the very limited numbers of large animal veterinarians, requiring animal owners to hire veterinarians for simple tasks, such as branding or castrating cattle or shoeing horses, would greatly increase the costs of animal ownership and could actually reduce the level of care that animals receive.

Roland said that Gray and the Freedom Center intend to appeal the court’s ruling.

“The Missouri Constitution guarantees a citizen’s right to enjoy the gains of their own industry,” Roland said.  “Exactly one hundred years ago the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that this means that the government cannot deny someone the right to be paid for performing work that would otherwise be perfectly legal.  Especially when so many Missourians are already struggling to find jobs, we believe that this common-sense principle still applies and that the higher courts will uphold Brooke’s constitutional right to earn a living.”

UPDATE 2/20/2013 at 8:03 a.m. Central:  Brooke Gray lost her first appeal.

If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Follow me on Twitter @BobMcCarty. Thanks in advance for your support!

Denver Post Coverage of Rabbit Raiser Takes 180

Seventy-two hours ago, I shared news about Debe Bell’s encounter with members of her local sheriff’s office in my post, Anonymous Call to New Animal Abuse Hotline Leads to Raid on Colorado Woman’s Rabbit Farm. Twenty-four hours ago, I shared my observations about Denver media outlets failing to cover a multitude of juicy stories behind the raid on her Six Bells Farm north of Denver.  Today, I share news that either the Denver Post‘s coverage of Bell’s case has taken a 180-degree turn or the newspaper’s “left hand” doesn’t know what its “right hand” is doing.  Correction explained in second update below.

Less than two weeks after the Denver Post published Liz Navratil‘s article under the headline, Arvada rabbit rancher faces animal-cruelty charges, the only daily in the Mile-High City published Joey Bunch‘s piece, Rabbit exhibitors offer soft touch (see graphic above), about children exhibiting bunnies at the National Western Stock Show.

Who did Bunch talk to first?  You guessed it!  The person I reported was the go-to person in the state when it came to rabbits — Debe Bell.  Take a look at the second and third paragraphs of the story:

Rabbits are a competitive hobby, a diversified industry and a way to teach children about caring for livestock, said Debe Bell of Arvada, superintendent of the wildly popular hands-on display in the Children’s Ranchland area.

“You can pet them, you can sell them, you can eat them, you can spin (their fur),” said Bell of the virtues of the bunny, a hobby she latched onto 24 years ago when her children raised them in 4-H.

I wonder…

…if Bunch realized he was talking with a person that’s been painted by so many in the media as an “animal abuser.”

…why the sheriff in Denver hasn’t arrested Bell for handling rabbits in his county.

…what the people at the show would say if they knew about the manner in which Bell was treated by the Jefferson County (Colo.) Sheriff’s Office and forced to sign over custody of her animals after she was threatened with having to pay $24,000 per month (one month minimum) for their care and feeding while the matter was adjudicated in the legal system.

It’s a strange country we’re living in today.

UPDATE 8/14 11 at 8:32 a.m. Central:  Foothills Animal Shelter will soon start adopting out Debe Bell’s rabbits, according to this announcement.

UPDATE 8/14/11 at 9:51 p.m. Central:  As “K” pointed out in a comment a few minutes ago, I goofed on the date of the Denver Post article. Still, makes me wonder how Bell went from “credible source” to “evil animal abuser” in such a short time.  In reality, I doubt she’s changed any of her practices since 2008.

UPDATE 8/18/11 at 7:59 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.

If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Follow me on Twitter @BloggingMachine. Thanks in advance for your support!

Denver Media Outlets Fail to Cover Multitude of Juicy Stories Behind Recent Rabbit Farm Raid

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:

Responsible Animal Owners Defense Trust
c/o Joyce Holliday
PO Box 1287
Berthoud, CO 80513

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.

If you enjoy this blog and want to keep reading stories like the one above, show your support by using the “Support Bob” tool at right. Follow me on Twitter @BloggingMachine. Thanks in advance for your support!

Anonymous Call to New Animal Abuse Hotline Leads to Raid on Colorado Woman’s Rabbit Farm

Debe Bell will probably never forget Thursday, July 21. It was the day she found herself surrounded by people from her local law enforcement agency, and they weren’t there to help.

Unlike John Dollarhite of Nixa, Mo., and several magicians across the country who’ve been hounded and threatened with massive fines by agents from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Bell had to go face to face with her hare-brained local sheriff.

An anonymous Crime Stoppers hotline tip led animal control officers from the Jefferson County (Colo.) Sheriff’s Office to descend upon Bell’s one-acre farm at about 10:30 that morning and, before the day was over, remove nearly 200 rabbits from the property.  The 59 year old was being accused of 24 misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals, including charges that she somehow mistreated two meat rabbits already inside her freezer.  More on the hotline later.

Bell had purchased the 1.01-acre property 12 miles north of Denver nearly 40 years earlier with plans to raise as much livestock as she wanted.  After all, it was zoned for agricultural purposes (“A-2”) and had everything she needed, including a four-bedroom, tri-level home and a 600-square-foot barn.  It looked like a great place to raise a family.

About 15 years later, Bell formed Six Bells Farm Candle Company and Rabbitry as a licensed farm business.  Launched as an offshoot of a 4-H project via which she taught her four children how to take care of something other than themselves, it grew into an operation that involved raising more than a dozen varieties of rabbits, primarily for personal meat consumption but also for use in educating children — including kids involved in 4-H — and members of the general public nationwide.

As the years passed, Bell’s expertise and reputation grew alongside her rabbit farm.  Not only did she become president of the local Long’s Peak Rabbit Club, but she became known as the go-to “resource person” for 4-H kids in Colorado who were interested in rabbits.  Her reputation as a top expert when it comes to understanding and caring for rabbits spread throughout Colorado and across the United States.  But that was before the raid.

The Day of the Raid

When Bell, 59, woke to begin that day almost three weeks ago, she had no idea government agents would soon swoop down on her tiny farm and effectively put an end to the pursuit of happiness in which she had been engaged for more than 25 years.

An instructor and lab coordinator at Metropolitan State College in Denver, Bell was in Boulder doing research when she was interrupted around 1 p.m.

“My neighbor called and said, ‘They’re seizing your animals!  You need to get home!’” Bell recalled.

When Bell asked for more details, the neighbor explained that animal control officers and deputies from the sheriff’s office had arrived around 10:30 a.m. and were preparing to seize her rabbits.

About 45 minutes from home, Bell wrapped up her research as quickly as she could and drove home to find out more about who was taking her rabbits and why.  She wanted to save the rabbits, each of which she knew by name, breed, tattoo and sex.

Upon arriving home at about 1:40 p.m., she found the animal control officers being unreasonable and milling about on her property — without a search warrant.  The “salt in the wound” that the situation had become was the fact that the sheriff’s office officials were accompanied by 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.

Much “discussion” took place during the day and, when the animal control officers told Bell she had “too many animals for your zoning,” she begged to differ.

“No, you need to check your zoning regulations,” she told them.  “I moved in before you changed the zoning.  I can have as many animals as I want.  I have more than an acre.  I’m zoned A-2.”

Apparently stumped by her knowledge of the local zoning, she said they told her they would set the zoning issue aside.

When she told them her business was a livestock operation, they told her they disagreed and began to push the proverbial envelope.

Bell said one officer told her, “We found a dead rabbit,” and acted as if that was the “nail in the coffin” for his case.  She responded bluntly, saying, “Rabbits die” — a fact she learned while growing up in Central Texas, where everybody is aware of that fact.

That prompted the officer in charge to tell Bell her rabbits were going to be seized, spayed or neutered, and then put up for adoption.

“What for?”  Bell asked.

Instead of answering her directly, the officer responded to her question with one of his own.

“When was the last time you were in the barn?”

“This morning at 5 o’clock when I watered them,” Bell answered.

“Well, they have no water,” the officer countered.

“They’re fine,” Bell replied.  “They have a swamp cooler and three fans.”

What’s a swamp cooler?  According to Bell, it’s an air conditioning device that blows air over moist pads to lower temperatures in environments such as barns.  More on this later, too.

At that point, Bell said, the officers had been in her barn for more than three hours, had opened up the doors, messed with the barn’s water system and had, effectively, turned off the water to the swamp cooler.

When their often-heated conversation turned to the temperature inside the barn, Bell said she told the officer that her barn’s cooling system could not keep up if it had to air condition the back yard where the outdoor temperature was 94 degrees.  That prompted more than one officer to literally scream at her, saying, “It’s 84 degrees in there!”

“Yeah,” Bell replied, stunned that the officers were apparently concerned about rabbits suffering in 84-degree heat.

When the officer asked if she had any idea how many animals she had, she answered, “One-hundred sixty-three and probably 19 or 20 babies.”

Bell said she went a step further by telling the officer she could tell him the location of every animal in that barn.  In addition, she told him the cages were tagged, numbered and sexed — with either pink tape or blue tape on them — and that she knew each rabbit in that barn by name.

Though officers couldn’t have overlooked the fact that the rabbit enclosures were clean and the barn was equipped with cooling, fly-control and watering systems, Bell said they seemed intent on making sure she didn’t do anything crazy to get in their way.

Bell said she wasn’t allowed to move, was threatened with being arrested at least four times, could not go inside her barn and, if she wanted to go anywhere else, had to ask officers for permission.

When Bell told one of the four sheriff’s deputies on scene that she wasn’t comfortable with House Rabbit Society members being on her property, she said the deputy looked her in the eye and said, “It is what it is.”

Hoping to document her experience, Bell said she took three photos  — two of which appear above — of the area around her barn.  Soon after, she was told by a sheriff’s deputy, under threat of arrest, that she had better stop.

“They told me four, five or six times (that) they were taking the animals no matter what,” Bell said, noting that she pointed out to them several times that there was nothing wrong with the animals or the conditions in which they were living.

When an officer told Bell the rabbits were living in “deplorable conditions,” she told him he was wrong.

“They are not living in deplorable conditions,” she said.  “Their cages are clean.  The trays are underneath them.  We’re cleaning this weekend.”

Bell went on to explain to the officer that kids from the local 4-H organization who are involved in raising rabbits come out every weekend to help clean cages and do other things related to the care of the rabbits.

$24,000 Per Month*

Several times during the day, animal control officers approached Bell and asked her to sign the rabbits over to them.  When she asked what it was going to cost her if she didn’t, their reply stunned her.

“They said, ‘Five dollars a day per rabbit,’” Bell recalled, “and I said, ‘That’s $815 per day.  Take ‘em!  I can’t afford that.”

As a result of recently putting two boys through Colorado State University, Bell said, she told the officers she has a “mountain of debt” already and could not afford more than $24,000 per month — for a minimum of one month.  The entire herd of rabbits was worth only $17,000.

At approximately 4:30 p.m., Bell said, a sheriff’s deputy arrived with the long-awaited search warrant and, within a half hour, the assembled animal control officers and volunteers began hauling out the rabbits in an effort that lasted about four hours.

The ‘Official’ Story

When I contacted sheriff’s office spokesperson Mark Techmeyer by phone early Tuesday afternoon, he explained how an anonymous tip led to his agency obtaining a search warrant.

“They reacted on a Crime Stoppers tip and went out there, and they saw what they believed to be some issues,” Techmeyer said.  “Then they were able to take that information back to the judge and get a warrant issued.”

Thanks to a new Crime Stoppers program launched in June 2011, he said, individuals can call a statewide animal abuse hotline and, while remaining anonymous, can report cases of suspected animal abuse.

Rabbit Experts?

While I had him on the phone, I asked Techmeyer if any of the employees at the sheriff’s animal control division were rabbit experts, Techmeyer never answered the question.  Instead, he quibbled, saying, “That depends upon how you define ‘experts,’” and then changed the subject.

None of the animal control employees — or the volunteers accompanying them — knew much about rabbits, according to Bell.  In fact, she said the rabbits were severely mishandled during their removal.

For instance, 10-day-old babies “still in a nest box with their mommy” were wrapped in a towel and placed inside a cat crate and stood their mother on top of them.

“I looked at ‘em and I said, ‘You just issued a death sentence for those babies,’” Bell said, explaining that the mother would stomp the babies.

In response, the sheriff’s office employee said, “That’s their mom.  Why would she do that?”

“Because they’re rabbits,” Bell replied.

“They loaded them in cardboard boxes, put them in a horse trailer and hauled them off to the fairgrounds,” Bell said, “where they housed them in a concrete, non-air conditioned horse stall barn.”

In addition to being placed in a hot environment, Bell said, her rabbits were placed in dog and cat crates with solid-bottom floors, meaning, “The minute they urinate, they’re standing in their own urine.”

The Next Step

Asked what her next step might be, Bell said her attorney, Elizabeth Kearney of Burthoud, Colo., has written several letters on her behalf, trying to get a meeting with Scott Storey, the district attorney for Jefferson and Gilpin Counties, but “keeps hitting brick walls.”

“They don’t want to return her calls,” she said.  “They don’t want to talk to her.”

In addition, Bell said, sheriff’s office officials will not provide any information to Bell about the condition of her rabbits and will not allow her veterinarian of nearly 25 years to examine them.

Why might that be?  Bell thinks she knows the answer.

“I think, honestly, they dug themselves a deep hole,” she said, “and they don’t quite know how to crawl out of it.”

“They’ve destroyed me emotionally, socially and professionally,” Bell said, listing numerous ways in which local animal rights activists have publicized information about the case in an effort to make her and her four children — all adults who haven’t lived under her roof for several years — look bad.  But that’s not all.

“They’ve made 4-H kids all across Colorado just sob,” she said, “because I am their 4-H connection.”

Bell noted that 12 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 begins Thursday and the remaining 10 at the Colorado State Fair which runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5 in Pueblo.

Rabbit raisers in Colorado are so scared they might suffer the same fate as Six Bells Farm, Bell said, that many are not going to show their animals at the Colorado State Fair.  The shortage of participants at this year’s Small Animals Show 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.

“I would hope the entire United States would get involved in this,” Bell said, “because this is a group of people that have gotten away with this crap once or twice and they’re just continuing.

“Because they’ve been given the power erroneously once, they’re taking it more and more,” she continued, “and they’re gonna chase farmers out.”

Closing thought for the day:  Bell said she learned through a third party familiar with her case that the people caring for the displaced rabbits at the fairgrounds eventually bought a cooling device to improve the rabbits’ living conditions at the fairgrounds.  What did they buy?  You guessed it!  A swamp cooler.

More to come.

UPDATE 8/10/11 at 10:17 p.m. Central:  An animal rights troll who is no longer allowed to post comments on this site claims that a CBS Denver news report shows animals with matted fur, etc.  Of course, she’s wrong.  The report does not show any animals in poor condition.  Instead, it only shows spokesman Techmeyer using words to paint a picture of abuse.  Watch it here if you must.

UPDATE 8/11/11 at 8:25 a.m. Central:  Cross-posted at Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com.

UPDATE 8/12/11 at 9:07 a.m. Central:  I’ve been advised that 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:

Responsible Animal Owners Defense Trust
c/o Joyce Holliday
PO Box 1287
Berthoud, CO 80513

UPDATE 8/13/11 at 7:57 a.m. Central:  Denver Media Outlets Fail to Cover Multitude of Juicy Stories Behind Recent Rabbit Farm Raid

*UPDATE 8/13/11 at 5:51 p.m. Central:  In speaking with Debe Bell last night, I learned that the Sheriff has already begun giving away the rabbits.  Why?  Because she signed away her rights to them in order to avoid paying $24,000 per month (one-month minimum) — as mentioned in the story above — for their care and feeding while the matter was adjudicated.

UPDATE 8/13/11 at 7:02 p.m. Central: Denver Post Coverage of Rabbit Raiser Takes 180.

UPDATE 8/14 11 at 8:30 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.

UPDATE 2/1/12 at 3:05 p.m. Central:  Deb Bell found guilty on 35 counts of animal abuse targeting rabbits.

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Memories of Smalltown Freedoms Recalled (Update)

Today, more than ever before, the freedoms celebrated by Americans on Independence Day appear to be at risk.  Among the most important are some freedoms I remember growing up with in Enid, Okla., during the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The people of Enid had the freedom to feed the world.

Because my “forever hometown” in North Central Oklahoma was known as the “Wheat Capitol of the World,” its residents could have boasted about having some of the tallest buildings in the world if not for the fact that those buildings, known as grain elevators, were lying on their sides.  Still, they were proud of those structures and what they represented as the largest inland grain storage center on the planet, visible from miles away to visitors as they made the flat-land approaches to the city via U.S. Highways 64 and 81.

Every year without fail, those grain elevators were filled as a result of hard work and a lot of prayer put in by farmers, aided by caravans of combines and a large labor force of willing-and-able teenagers and others who counted on “The Harvest” for extra income.

The people of Enid had the freedom to defend freedom.

When I was a kid, Enid served as home to some of the busiest air space in the Midwest, thanks to Vance AFB, a pilot training base since 1941 that has served as a launching pad for thousands of Air Force pilots and, more recently, Marine Corps and Navy pilots.

As a kid, I can remember going to annual Open House events at the base to see aerobatic wonders executed by members of the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron (a.k.a., “The Thunderbirds”), the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels and others in the sky above my head. I also remember watching T-37 “Tweets” and T-38 Talon aircraft flying overhead almost daily during the first two decades of my life.  In addition to influencing my decision to become an active-duty Air Force officer and serve on three continents, I suspect the presence of the air base might have influenced other Enid boys, including Owen K. Garriott, the first Enidite — yes, that’s what we called ourselves — to fly into space as part of the Skylab 3 mission in 1973.

The people of Enid had the freedom to fuel freedom.

In addition to agriculture and defense, Enid was home to a large number of individuals — including my dad, an independent petroleum geologist — and companies involved in the exploration, production and refining of oil. In fact, I grew up about three miles across town from a facility known as the Champlin Oil Refinery.

Just like the Oklahoma state song says, “the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains” on a regular basis in Enid.  On rare occasions, however, the wind blew from the East instead of the West.  As a result, it was often accompanied by sulphur-tinted vapors emanating from that oil refinery.

Did the people on the West Side of Enid panic upon smelling the refinery fumes from the East Side? No, they didn’t.  In Enid, that vapor wasn’t regarded as “air pollution”; instead, it was respected — albeit in an odd sort of way — as the aroma of jobs, money and economic vitality.

The people of Enid had the freedom to enjoy freedom.

Even after the refinery was shut down in 1984 and relocated to Corpus Christi, Texas, the “dots” of agriculture, defense and oil remained connected by the “glues” of patriotism, sacrifice and rugged individualism that shaped the community. And nothing said “community” more than Independence Day celebrations at Meadowlake Park.

Each year, tens of thousands of people descended upon the 110-acre city park for the annual Fourth of July fireworks display.  For hours before sunset, they would spend time coaxing fish out of the lake, playing baseball and softball games, enjoying picnics and riding rides operated by a local civic club, the Enid Kiwanis Club.  Among the best rides at the park was a train.

The “City of Enid Express,” purchased by the club in 1963, includes an engine that’s a replica of the 1863 C. P. Huntington and three open-air passenger cars.  Most incredibly, the train was manned by volunteers and operated without any federal government support.

According to the club’s website, the train carries an average of 15,000 passengers a year over 1.2 miles of track, through a tunnel, and over two bridges.

Thanks to online resources, such as the The Enid News & Eagle website and my Facebook friends in Enid, I’m able to keep up with hometown news and have been assured of several things that give me hope as I enjoy the Fourth of July with my family in the St. Louis area:

~ The sound of freedom still roars loudly in Enid, thanks to the people at Vance AFB;

~ The combines are gonna run in the fields this summer;

~ Oil wells are still being drilled;

~ Kids are still climbing aboard that slow-moving train when the conductor can’t see them in his side-view mirror; and

~ Weather and fire danger permitting, the South side of the park is gonna shut down Monday evening so that the annual fireworks display can be enjoyed one more time by the good people of Enid.

Editor’s Note:  E-N-I-D is the answer to any crossword puzzle clue asking for the name of a four-letter town in Oklahoma.

UPDATE 7/4/11 at 5:42 a.m. Central: Cross-posted at Andrew Breitbart’s BigPeace.com.

UDPATE 7/4/11 at 6:08 a.m. Central: Here’s a link to this year’s list of Fourth of July activities in Enid.

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