‘Like poodles are running free’: Wilton Manors rabbit roundups spark controversy

Neighbors are at odds with furry residents hopping around the streets of the Wilton estate.

Some residents were pushing city officials to do something about the animals, so on Friday morning, about a dozen volunteers from the East Coast Rabbit Rescue Service began trapping Lionhead rabbits in the Jenada Island area.

“This is not the ideal environment for them,” Monica Mitchell said, speaking on behalf of the organization.

“It’s like seeing poodles running around the neighborhood,” said Ashley Burke, who helped with the rescue and led the Space Coast Bunnies. “They are at risk of disease. It’s so annoying.”

Mitchell explained what happens when volunteers catch a rabbit.

“We will take him to our facility, then spay and neuter, vaccinate, check the veterinarian, treat him for any illnesses they may have, and then give him up for adoption,” she said.

Volunteers spent hours Friday morning picking up rabbits from bushes and yards where locals allowed them to go. It’s not an easy job, but Briana Fyan caught a few with her bare hands, often out of breath.

“I am a rabbit breeder,” she said.

Fian often teamed up with fellow volunteer Emily Dusenbury to catch rabbits. Both spent time on all fours searching for escaped jumpers. They crawled into the bushes and used the fences to corner them.

“We’ll get there,” Dusenbury said.

But not everyone is happy about the disappearance of rabbits. Joe Jones said he had lived in the neighborhood for over thirty years and the rabbits had been here for the past two years.

“They survive here very well, they bring a lot of joy,” he said.

Jones won’t let rescuers into his property because he wants the rabbits to stay in his yard. He has bunny haircuts growing in his yard. On Friday morning, Jones even hosted a “brunch” for rabbits in his garage in the hope that the rabbits would not fall into the hands of volunteer hunters.

Mitchell said her group only collected 19 rabbits, including two she called “very pregnant.”

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