Investigation - (Update 7.2.22 )
Updated: Aug 24, 2022
Hello. This is Caleb, I'm a teenager who started this service-learning program, and thanks for visiting this site today with an update.
Many of you have never heard of our programs until today…and then there are those who have followed us for years and have taken time to write in and share what’s on your heart. And if I were watching the news and saw stories the way they are written, I would likely respond like many are right now with questions and lots of emotion. I’m so grateful for caring hearts who are providing foster care for the new heritage breed babies and who are caring directly for one Angora rabbit that I believe is getting medication for a newly infected eye and also for my personal pet rabbit who is disabled.
Because I sincerely believe that apologies without actions are useless, I’m working with some trusted adults who have spoken wisdom into my life over the years as I start to craft what an apology and what future accountability might look like. But for today, I wish to say I’m sorry to any rabbits if they did not get the absolute best care because of any choice or action or inaction I took.
I also apologize to those who have followed our journey and who have invested in our mission and may be feeling deceived or at the very least disappointed and heartbroken that they supported our programs. I apologize to the rabbit community whose trust has been shaken. I also specifically apologize to those involved in the book project and speaking engagements. Thank you for providing me a way to share my story and I'm sorry that the last chapter seems so ugly right now. I hope that there is redemption at the end of it all, but that's too much to ask for now.
WHAT'S NEXT? To my understanding of process, the investigation is ongoing and the next step is for experts to check in on the rabbits this week. Then a few days later, the investigation team will follow up, documenting improvements and any continued concerns and will make final recommendations. City law enforcement stopped by again today for a visit to share updates on the process. So we move forward with transparency, accountability and moving forward in the moment with mini steps to specifically address the condition of the big barn at the farm that we nicknamed "Peacebunny Cottage." We've been grateful to have access to this barn for the past few years including while we waited out COVID, hoping this old dairy farm would be saved rather than developed ---and hoping that it could become our permanent, sustainable home. I recognize that many will look for the people to blame and to hold to this very hot fire. And even though I’m still a minor, I'm the one who started this venture. I recognize that there are things to do better or delegate, and I own my part. And on paper my mom is the President, so I understand that any charges will likely be given to her.
What I'm NOT going to do right now is to post any defense here, or argue about specific word choices from any news stories, nor defend against any conclusions of those involved in conducting the investigation. Things are in motion and we’ll see where they go and what the investigation concludes. That's all to come and it's important that procedures are followed to provide accountability. If there is a fine, I commit to personally pay it, not take any money from donations.
I actually have always supported investigations as a way to bring change and accountability and transparency.... Plus arguing rarely changes minds or fixes anything anyway. It's not the time to post a list of the contributing factors that led to a perfect storm this week. I publicly own my role in any legal outcomes, not falling back on intentions or youthfulness. I trust in the integrity of the investigation that is continuing and think will be released after the holiday weekend.
So tonight, I simply publicly own my role. I also need to be very clear that the volunteers came twice a day to feed, water and give clean straw/hay, and they responsibly did the chores especially over the past few weeks. I'm super grateful and nothing is their fault.
More to come...
From Stephanie Smith, President of Peacebunny Cottage 7.2.22 Going from tragedy to tragedy over the years, I've witnessed that apologies are needed even if they often can't fix things that are broken. However, apologies still do matter. And there are many for me to make. Those will come over time but we wanted to expressly share our short term action plan as soon as possible that will get us through August 10.
While Caleb has a big heart and wanted to issue his statement first, I'm a parent and the legal signer for the foundation. While it would be legally smarter to not say anything, I feel it's important to make a general statement to the public. I recognize and accept that no matter what Caleb says about his role, in the end the responsibility for the Foundation ends with me - not him or the other youth who have been so invested.
Commitments (Plan through August 10) 1) PROGRAMS: We are voluntarily ceasing all public programs immediately. Although our summer and fall events schedule is full, there are no other prepaid events on the schedule, so there is nothing to refund. Related to our planned crisis response trip in August, the funds donated specifically for this cause will be sent to support crisis response in the community at their discretion to honor the intention of those gifts. We also will not be adding new events to share the rabbit to our calendar until this investigation process is completed. If our nonprofit folds, we will use any remaining funds to support other organizations that work in Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, Therapy and Activities because we believe in this work so strongly.
Transfer of Care: We will continue working toward a plan for the timely oversite, and transparency of care for the rabbits. We will continue to assist with the daily care of the rare heritage breed colony and all our rabbits while we develop our formal long term plan. If any of our rabbits are transferred permanently, we would want to use any remaining foundation dollars to help with their long term expenses of feed/hay. We are renting the barn at the farm rented through August 10, so that will allow time to start to come up with a new long term care plan and determine if the rabbits will be decentralized/dispersed. All foster families continue to have the option to adopt.
County & State Fair: Many of Caleb's pedigreed rabbits are reigning state fair champions. The titles and ribbons have belonged to the rabbits, not to us, and perhaps they can still participate. As an organization / family will not be doing any demonstrations. We don't want to bring any potential negative attention to this awesome event and to the organizations Caleb has been so involved in.
Angoras: These exotic long hair rabbits take more grooming time and attention than short hair breeds. After the vet assessment we will determine next steps. Our current plan is to continue to be responsible for grooming. Almost all have been recently given their seasonal haircut except those who we have planned to take to the fair.
3) NEW RABBITS: We will not accept any rescues or bring in any new rabbits. We have never operated as a rescue but have from time to time brought in rabbits that were offered to us to join our program. We will continue to refer people who call to reach out to area rescue organizations. Young rabbits will continue to be with their colony until they are weaned. 4) VACCINES: We will work with any agency or organization or vet that wishes to continue our work with RHDV2 mass vaccination, especially because boosters will be encouraged this fall. We have lots of documentation, best practice manuals and administration tools that would be helpful, so we can support someone else if we aren't moving forward with booster /vaccine days.. We provided the infrastructure for 28 vets to give 2000 vaccinations last fall and we know there is a big need to continue this important service that doesn't fall into anyone's natural responsibilities and that's why we did it. If someone picks up this mantle to host booster mass clinic we would be pleased to support their work. 5) DONATIONS/GRANTS: We will work to provide financial transparency of the donations made to the Foundation and disclose where the funds have already been spent or are designated at time of donation for future use. We will continue to use funds to financially support the care of the rabbits currently connected to our program. We know that rescues are overflowing already and they don't need additional expenses added to their responsibilities. We will personally stop selling items that raise funds for the foundation including merchandise. We do not have any pending grant applications and will not seek out funding.
6) LEGAL EXPENSES: No foundation money will be spent on any legal expenses. That will be borne by us alone should we choose to pursue that in the future. 7) OUR FAMILY: We currently do not have any rabbits living with us at our house. Until Caleb turns 20, we commit that we won't bring any rabbits home to live with us and Caleb has agreed to the same, while acknowledging that the court has the power to extends that timeline. 8) SOCIAL MEDIA / CONTACTS: We have been engaged with many of you over the years through social media. We have loved sharing our journey and allowing you to post items. We will greatly miss those connections and we are so sorry that this community is going silent for now. We will likely not be posting again for awhile as we go through the investigation/legal process. We will not delete any posts nor moderate any comments. Hopefully people will be kind to each other. At some point, we may choose to remove some posts or our media sites. 9) CONTACT US: We will not likely continue to actively monitor or respond through messenger, twitter, meta or linked in or instagram format so if you need to reach us, please email email@example.com We turned off the ringer because of the horrible threats Caleb was receiving. I know you're passionate, but it's also a crime to make threats and encourage suicide. 609.215 Minnesota Statute
10) CLARITY: Our farm and event volunteers have been incredible over the years. The veterinarians who served at the RHDV2 clinics this year have proven to be selfless, caring professionals; they are not our employees but served as contract staff providing this incredible service to Minnesota rabbits. A special thank you to Dr. Megan Schommer who has served as the vaccine clinic medical director. She is an angel and is not affiliated with our foundation in any other way except for those contracted events or as a veterinarian providing care in her own clinic.
11) COOPERATION: We will continue to cooperate with government agencies related to any potential violations.
12) MEDIA: At this time we do not intend to give any additional statements unless in writing through this site. Thank you to those reporters and networks who have chosen to be patient and allowed the proper investigation process to run its course. Thank you to those who have asked question when things didn't look so clear cut. It's not the time or place for us to share. We do not intend to engage with anyone commenting here or on social media, nor to share any more details for now.
The investigation report is one piece of the equation and the ongoing legal process will take time. We expect wellness visits this week and for city staff to return to check on building/health codes.
Thank you for reading. More to come...