GOWANUS — Police and animal welfare workers seized another 105 rabbits from a Gowanus backyard on Thursday after finding that some of the 74 bunnies taken earlier in the week during a snowstorm had syphilis and other diseases.
Officials were authorized to seize the remaining rabbits because a vet's exam of the bunnies rescued on Monday revealed that some of the animals were suffering from the sexually transmitted disease, ear mites and wounds from fighting each other, a law enforcement source said.
Police also had a warrant for the seizure on Monday, which happened after panicked 911 callers reported the bunnies were outside in the cold as a blizzard was forecast to hit the city. Animal welfare advocates had been pleading with authorities to save the rabbits since DNAinfo New York reported about their unlikely home in a dirt patch behind a tire shop.
During Monday's rescue, police took the rabbits that were exposed to the cold, but left others that were sheltered.
On Thursday, officers from the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit cut the lock on a gate leading to the bunny compound about 12:30 p.m. Police and workers with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals spent more than two hours rounding up the cottontails and putting them in cages, boxes and animal carriers.
Some of the rabbits shivered visibly as they huddled in cages waiting to be placed in two ASCPA vans. When the rabbit raid was over, officers had taken 105 bunnies in all, a spokeswoman for Animal Care & Control of New York City said.
Investigators found dozens of rabbits in the basement of the apartment building that overlooks the yard, which a police source said stank of animal urine. Workers also dug through the snow and used flashlights to peek into burrows the rabbits had dug in the yard.
Police at the scene said they retrieved all of the rabbits they could find, but that there could be more bunnies hiding underground.
After veterinarians examine the rabbits seized Thursday, investigators will determine whether their owner could face charges of animal neglect or cruelty, a law enforcement source said. The 74 rabbits rescued on Monday were taken to ACC's Brooklyn care center, and the 105 seized on Thursday were taken to agency's Manhattan facility.
The nonprofit animal rescue agency is accepting donations of hay and other supplies needed to care for the rabbits.
Owner Dorota Trec has said she keeps the rabbits to bring joy to her neighbors, but animal welfare advocates say the bunnies are suffering from cruel treatment. Trec could not be reached immediately for comment on Thursday.
"Everyone in the neighborhood loved these rabbits," said longtime resident Richard Medina. "All the kids loved to walk by and look at the bunnies. But if they're suffering, then it's better for the ASPCA to take them."
Capt. Frank DiGiacomo, commanding officer of the 78th Precinct, said rescuing the rabbits was one of the more unusual incidents in his career, but that it felt good to help animals in distress.
"The bunnies can't help themselves," DiGiacomo said. "Somebody has to help the bunnies."