Case Snapshot
Case ID: 18273
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: rabbit (pet)
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Attorneys/Judges
Defense(s): Elizabeth Kearney
Judge(s): Tammy Greene


Images for this Case

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.



Thursday, Jul 21, 2011

County: Jefferson

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Convicted
Case Images: 8 files available

Defendant/Suspect: Debe Bell

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

Authorities have seized 200 severely sick rabbits from a Jefferson County home in an animal cruelty investigation.

During a Thursday raid of a home at 12820 W. 75th Ave., near Arvada, investigators found some rabbits had died in an overheated, 84-degree shed, where the animals were kept in cages deep in feces, Jefferson County sheriff's spokesman Mark Techmeyer said.

Some rabbits had severely matted fur, and they were described as "aggressively thirsty," because they lacked ample water and food, he said.

Three veterinarians at the scene said the rabbits needed to be seized for their welfare because they were "in very poor health and living in deplorable conditions," according to Techmeyer.

The rabbits were transported to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds for further evaluation and care by Foothills Animal Shelter, he said.

"All of us in the animal welfare field are affected by cases like this, because our hearts go out to the animals," said Jennifer Strickland of the Foothills Animal Shelter told 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart.

Strickland said the rabbits are not up for adoption. A judge will decide what happens with them, she added.

Strickland said the shelter needs the public's help with supplies for the bunnies, adding that a list will be posted at FoothillsAnimalShelter.org.

Techmeyer described the rabbit owner as an unlicensed breeder. He said the owner's name was not being released Thursday, pending possible charges of animal abuse.

7NEWS learned the owner is Debe Bell, 59, whose Six Bell's Farm website says she's been "raising rabbits since 1982, both with my kids in 4-H and open shows."

"I am one of the Bunny Ladies from the National Western Stock Show having been involved with the NWSS for more than 12 years," Bell writes. Her website displays photographs of her wide array of rabbit breeds, from American Fuzzy Lops to Netherland Dwarfs.

Bell works as a laboratory coordinator and adjunct faculty member in the Chemistry Department at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, according to the college website.

"If there were some animal welfare issues, you know issues to be addressed, they could address them with her," said neighbor Jenny Ridgley

"I don't think she would compromise their health," Ridgley added.

Investigators were alerted to the case when someone called in the first tip to a new Crime Stoppers hot line devoted to fielding animal abuse reports, Techmeyer said. The hot line was launched in June.


Case Updates

Debe Bell will spend five years on supervised probation and won't be able to own more than 25 of any animal as part of her sentence for 35 counts of animal cruelty related to rabbits at her Six Bells Farm in Arvada last year.

Bell, 59, surrendered about 200 rabbits last year after Jefferson County authorities made an unannounced inspection last July following a Crime Stoppers tip.

"Animal Control officers found deplorable conditions in a shed where 193 rabbits were housed. The shed was hot, 84 degrees, with little light and inadequate ventilation. The cages housing the rabbits were urine-soaked," the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office stated today in announcing the sentence.

Bell also will be subject to future unannounced welfare checks from animal control inspectors and must maintain all necessary licenses. She also will have to complete 250 hours of community service and pay a $500 fine, the District Attorney's Office.

She also is barred from profiting from public speaking about the case, prosecutors said.

A jury found Bell guilty on 35 of the 55 counts against her in January.

Bell raised and bred rabbits for a living and previously was licensed as a small animal breeder, but at the time the rabbits were removed, she did not have a license, according tot he District Attorney's Office.

Bell's lawyers and argued she ran a livestock operation, that she treated the rabbits as such, which would have mean the animal cruelty charge would not apply.

Judge Tammy Greene ruled that rabbits did not fit in the same category as "bovine, camelids, caprine, equine, ovine, porcine and poultry," according to prosecutors.

Rabbits are not included in the statutory definition, and Bell's treatment of her rabbits did not meet accepted practices.
Source: denverpost.com - Mar 20, 2012
Update posted on Mar 20, 2012 - 8:52PM 
A woman who operated a rabbit farm in Arvada has been found guilty of multiple counts of animal cruelty.

Debe Bell, 59, was convicted Friday by a Jefferson County jury, according to prosecutors.

Bell operated Six Bells Farm, 12820 W. 75th Ave., where authorities found "deplorable conditions" while following up on a Crime Stoppers tip in July, according to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office.

"The cages housing the rabbits were urine-soaked, caked in feces, and had little or no food," the DA said in a media release. "With few exceptions, they had no water. The animals were dehydrated. Many were severely matted, some with urine and feces matted and caked into their fur."

Bell raised and bred rabbits, according to the release. She had previously been licensed as a small animal breeder, but at the time the rabbits were removed from her property, she was not licensed.

Just under 200 rabbits were removed and Bell was charged with 55 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

In addition to the rabbits in the shed, 20 dead rabbits were found in a freezer. The jury found Bell not guilty of animal cruelty in the deaths of those rabbits.

The jury did, however, find Bell guilty of 35 counts of animal cruelty.

Sentencing has been scheduled for March 20. Each misdemeanor count carries a potential sentence of up to 18 months in jail, the district attorney's office said.
Source: denverpost.com - Jan 30, 2012
Update posted on Jan 30, 2012 - 1:24PM 
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office released disturbing photos Wednesday from a case of alleged animal cruelty and neglect involving approximately 200 rabbits.

On July 21, authorities seized the rabbits from 6 Bells Farm at 12820 West 75th Ave. in Arvada, citing "deplorable conditions."

"After officers and veterinarians did an initial inspection of the rabbits and the conditions they were being kept in, it was determined that the 200 rabbits needed to be seized for their welfare," said Jefferson County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jacki Kelley.

The rabbits were packed into a shed "with little or no light and in filthy and cramped cages," according to the search warrant affidavit, which was also released Wednesday.

"The animal's coats were matted, and the place stunk of urine and feces," the warrant says. (Read the full affidavit)

The rabbits were transported to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds for treatment by veterinarians with the Foothills Animal Shelter.

The owner of the farm, Debe Bell, 59, will appear in court on Sept. 12 to face animal cruelty and neglect charges.
Source: baltimoresun.com - Aug 17, 2011
Update posted on Aug 18, 2011 - 8:30PM 

References

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