GOWANUS — A woman who kept nearly 200 rabbits as pets in the backyard of a Gowanus tire shop was arrested Wednesday on animal cruelty charges after investigators discovered that the bunnies were riddled with diseases and injuries, a law enforcement source said.
Rabbit owner Dorota Trec was taken into custody at Brooklyn's 68th Precinct and issued a desk appearance ticket, the source said.
She was charged with 124 counts of animal cruelty and is due to be arraigned in Brooklyn Criminal Court on March 13, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney's office said.
Trec faces up to one year in jail if she's found guilty of the charges, a law enforcement source said.
She housed dozens of rabbits in a dirt lot on Third Avenue and Ninth Street because she was fascinated by the animals and wanted to bring joy to her neighbors, she told DNAinfo New York in December.
But authorities found that Trec kept too many of the animals in tight quarters, causing them to fight and spread disease.
Veterinarians who examined the bunnies found that many had syphilis and conjunctivitis. Dozens of the rabbits also had injuries that were likely a result of fights, such as torn ears, missing fur, bite wounds and trauma to their genitals, a law enforcement source said.
One rabbit was unable to move because of wounds to its hind legs and four of the bunnies had a painful skin inflammation on their bottoms that's caused by sitting in dirty cages, the source said.
Trec did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
After a DNAinfo New York story about the rabbits, Trec's urban menagerie attracted the attention of animal welfare advocates, who suspected Trec was an animal hoarder mistreating the bunnies.
Authorities rescued a total of 177 rabbits from the yard where Trec kept them and from the basement of the apartment building overlooking the yard. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Animal Care & Control of NYC have cared for the rabbits since they were seized.
Six more rabbits have been born and one died in an accident since January, the law enforcement source said.
Though authorities seized 177 rabbits, Trec will be charged with only 124 counts of animal cruelty because 53 of the bunnies were healthy, the source said.
After Trec is arraigned, the ASPCA will be allowed to petition authorities for custody of the animals and will most likely put them up for adoption, the law enforcement source said.
“We are pleased the NYPD has made an arrest in this case," an ASPCA spokeswoman said.
She added that the rabbits are still Trec's property and that ASPCA is "not at liberty to find them new homes," but will continue to provide medical care and housing for the rabbits.
ACC did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
It costs $40,000 a month to house, feed and care for the rabbits, the law enforcement source said.
Natalie Reeves, founder of Big Apple Bunnies, said she was glad to hear about Trec's arrest, but she's not celebrating yet.
“For months we've sought justice on behalf of the bunnies cruelly required to live among the trash in a Brooklyn junkyard,” Reeves said in an email.
“This arrest is a great step on that path, but we will not be satisfied until there has been a conviction, including a lifetime prohibition on the owner from having animals.”