Everybody loves bunny rabbits. Who can resist the furry hoppers and their floppy ears? But when people dump unwanted pets, the taxpayer could foot the bill.
In this Contact 13 Investigation, Darcy Spears uncovers how thousands of dollars were spent on a solution that even the state admits didn't work.
More than a thousand rabbits run amok at a state facility on Charleston Boulevard near Jones.
"It's very, very heartbreaking," says Stacey Taylor.
Stacey and her friend, Mary Turner, are trying to help.
"They're getting hurt. They're hungry," says Mary.
They say this location is one of several in the city where people dump unwanted pet bunnies.
"I think it's very irresponsible," says Stacey.
The animals are being hit by cars on neighboring roads. And they took one to the vet after it had apparently been poisoned.
Rabbits have been here for more than twenty years according to the state. And that creates a number of problems. The holes they dig are a trip hazard. And they're also damaging sidewalks, foundations and sprinkler systems.
"The droppings with the amount of rabbits there it's becoming a health hazard," says Gus Nunez with Nevada Public Works Department.
Animal advocates want a humane solution. The state piloted a program to educate the public and capture, spay, neuter and adopt the rabbits out. Total price tag for taxpayers: $17,000.
Some of your tax dollars went to put up signs around the property telling people that it's illegal to dump pets. But employees here say the signs were just a waste of money because the dumping took place years ago, and besides that, the penalty has never been enforced.
The $17,000 was awarded to a group called V Animal Sanctuary owned by Sacbe Meling.
Meling was the subject of a prior Contact 13 Investigation.
After volunteers reached out to us early last year, Animal Control started investigating. The county found code violations and decided not to issue additional permits. Several volunteers quit, and ultimately, Meling was out, too.
"I'm being evicted. Yeah. And it's a refusal to pay rent, not an inability to pay rent," Meling said in an interview last year.
But the state says they weren't aware of all those problems. And V Animal Sanctuary was the only organization willing to take the rabbits.
The state expected 80% would be removed in 6 months, but that didn't happen.
"We were quite surprised," say Nunez. "It's not easy to catch the rabbits and get them under control and get them into the cage."
Only about 200 rabbits were rounded up; many too sick to adopt out.
We contacted Sacbe Meling. He declined an interview unless we provided questions in advance which is against our policy.
What most people want is accountability.
"To spend that kind of money and not follow it through and complete is heartbreaking," says Stacey. "Not only for the bunnies but to the taxpayers that are paying for it.
The state tells us all the bills V Animal Sanctuary submitted are legitimate so that's why Sacbe was paid the $17,000 even though the contract was closed with hundreds of rabbits still roaming the area.