State and local governments respond after rescue group volunteers find dozens of rabbits dead in Las Vegas. 

The discovery was made at the Desert Willow Treatment Center on West Charleston Boulevard near Jones Boulevard — a site known for people abandoning rabbits over the years.

A rescue group says more than 50 were found dead and so far 80 have been rescued. It’s not officially known what killed the rabbits, but a veterinarian who was out here over the weekend and examined some of the rabbits, shares with her take on the situation.

“I think poison makes the most sense,” said Nicole Smee, veterinarian.

Smee suspects poison killed more than 50 rabbits over the holiday weekend at Desert Willow Treatment Center.

Smee helped collect the dead bunnies on Sunday with rescue groups and examined a few.

“They were not really injured, they were big, healthy appearing rabbits,” she said.

The cause of death is causing her some concern.

“Some of those other animals like coyotes potentially can go and pick up a deceased rabbit, go somewhere else and move those animals to other locations which means that whatever is killing them can be spread to other areas,” Smee said.

She’s not ruling out anything natural in the environment as a factor, but adds it’s unlikely.
“They’ve been there for so long, if there was some sort of natural poison or toxin in the environment, I would’ve expected that to show up at some previous time, it all seems very suspicious.”

The state issued a public health notice on Friday claiming the rabbits on the grounds may potentially carry diseases.– then dozens show up dead.

“It seems like a strange coincidence,” Smee said.

City codes shows it’s a misdemeanor for a person to poison an animal. It’s also a misdemeanor to purposely place or throw a substance like glass, nails or other objects out to hurt an animal.

As for Smee and others, they’re waiting for lab test results to understand the cause of death.

“It’s really heartbreaking. Unfortunately this, whatever happened, happened and that there were so many lives that were lost.”

The state released a statement today saying it’s aware of the situation,asked for an investigation and is working with animal control. In an updated statement it said:

“DHHS’ priority is the protection of the public’s health, including the vulnerable populations we serve as well as our employees.  The West Charleston Campus is a residential and outpatient campus which serves individuals with intellectual disabilities, adults, children and families receiving mental health services and administrative offices.

The Southern Nevada Health District and City of Las Vegas Animal Control toured the campus grounds and advised us of the potential risks the bunnies could pose to those who work, visit and live on the campus.  We wanted to post the notice as the first step to the public.

Our next steps are to work with City of Las Vegas Animal Control, the Southern Nevada Health District and reach out to the Bunny Rescue Groups as the plan was and continues to be to remove and relocate the bunnies safely and humanely.”

The city responded with the following statement:

“City of Las Vegas Animal Control returned to 6171 West Charleston Boulevard today regarding reports of wild rabbits being harmed at the location. Animal Control had previously been out to this location on Sunday and found no injured or deceased rabbits. Today officers found two deceased rabbits. Officers also spoke with security at the location as well as animal rescue representatives.
Reports that the city’s Animal Control unit is working with state agencies to trap rabbits at the site or investigate this matter are false. The rabbits are not located on city property. Also social media posts that the city plans to “exterminate the rabbits” are also false. Animal Control does not exterminate animals.”