A Calvert County woman accused of improperly caring for a large number of rabbits on her property entered an Alford Plea Sept. 13 to a single count of animal cruelty in District Court of Maryland for Calvert County.
By entering an Alford Plea, the accused, Carol B. Vanwie, 66 of Lusby, did not admit to being guilty but acknowledged the state likely had enough evidence to convict her. The plea was entered on Vanwie’s behalf by attorney Robert Harvey Jr.
Vanwie’s property on Tongue Cove Lane is called “Bunny Magic,” and she is well known for rescuing domestic rabbits, sheltering them and subsequently adopting them out.
“Her heart is in the right place and that’s what got her in trouble,” Harvey told Judge Robert B. Riddle. “She has too big a heart.”
On Aug. 8 at the behest of the Investigative Department of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office’s Animal Control Unit executed a search and seizure warrant at Vanwie’s property and seized over 222 rabbits. Officials from PETA had contacted Calvert authorities about the conditions at Bunny Magic.
“This is a troubling case,” said Riddle. “Everybody involved in this case had the right intentions.”
“This has been my life,” said Vanwie of her care for domestic rabbits. In her defense, Vanwie told Riddle she is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, has aided Calvert County Government in locating homes for abandoned domestic rabbits and has done community service work at Patuxent High School. “We’ve done a lot to educate others.”
Riddle sentenced Vanwie to 30 days in jail and suspended the sentence provided the defendant agrees to not take in any additional rabbits and pays restitution to the Tri-County Animal Shelter for their ongoing care of the seized rabbits.
Vanwie has requested that 42 over the confiscated rabbits that were her personal pets be returned to her. Riddle stated he will consider that and make a ruling at a follow-up hearing tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4. The judge said he would rely on the advice of “people who know more about rabbits than I do” when weighing that decision.
The Tri-County Animal Shelter has over 100 of the rescued rabbits up for adoption. Assistant State’s Attorney Michelle Saunders told the cou