Families say they have been duped by illegal bunny traffickers selling the tiny rabbits in LA's Fashion District. The animals, which the sellers say are fully grown, are usually infants too young to be weaned from their mothers and die within days of arriving at their new home. The Get Garcia Team investigated why a year-old law hasn't curtailed the illegal sale of bunnies. Ana Garcia reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on August 14, 2012.
Laws meant to prevent the illegal sale of animals, often kept in deplorable conditions, on the streets of Santee Alley are not working, according to families who say they were duped into buying sick animals.
Beverly Gilbert and her daughter, Lori, say they were lied to when they bought a bunny they named Alfred in Santee Alley. Gilbert says the seller told them the bunny was a dwarf and would get no bigger than the palm of her hand.
Gilbert says Lori carried Alfred everywhere she went until suddenly, and with no explanation, Alfred died.
“Here we think we think we did something wrong,” Gilbert said. “We sat for an hour crying.”
After Alfred died, Gilbert started researching dwarf bunnies and learned full grown dwarves are much larger than Alfred. It turns out, the Gilberts had been sold an underage bunny too young to eat the solid food they’d been told to feed him.
Most of the bunnies in Santee Alley are too young to be taken from their mothers and most of the people selling them have been arrested for illegal trafficking and animal cruelty. That’s the case for Juan Mena and Reyna Paredes.
Mena has a stay away order forbidding him from being in the area. Still, our hidden cameras repeatedly caught Mena and Paredes illegally selling bunnies in the Alley.
We tried to ask Mena why he was still breaking the law by selling infant bunnies in the alley, but he picked up his cages of bunnies from the sidewalk and ran.
“It is a misdemeanor section,” said LAPD Lead Officer Tracy Fischer. “So they have repeated arrests, but it doesn’t stop them from going out and committing the same crime again because what they got is punishment that isn’t severe enough.”
A year-old law makes it illegal to purchase animals on LA city streets and anyone who buys an illegal animal can be fined up to $1,000. The law aims to curtail the sale of the bunnies by decreasing the market for the animals.
However, the Mayor’s office has done little make the public aware of the law.
NBC4’s Ana Garcia wanted to talk to someone from the mayor’s office about the new law, but they declined requests for an interview. In an email, they said they had posted a dozen signs in the area surrounding Santee Alley and that the signs are “prominent” and “easily visible.”
The Get Garcia team had difficulty finding the signs. That may be because they are posted about eight feet off the ground and the writing is so small that it is nearly impossible to read.
When Mena fled, he left behind a tiny bunny. We immediately took it to Bunny World Foundation rescue. It is doing well and will be up for adoption soon.