‘Obvious state of neglect:’ Owner of 139 guinea pigs, 57 rabbits seized in Watertown could face charges, fines

WATERTOWN -- Nearly 200 animals confiscated from a home in Watertown are being cared for at the Watertown Humane Society. That includes 139 guinea pigs and 57 rabbits. According to police, not only was there an excess of animals being kept in the home, they were not being properly cared for.

A complaint regarding a strong odor led police to the home near 2nd and Emerald.

2nd and Emerald, Watertown

2nd and Emerald, Watertown

William Gruber

"It would be an understatement to say the conditions of the home were less than appropriate for human habitation. (The animals) were in an obvious state of neglect. In some cases, mistreatment," said William Gruber, Watertown city attorney.

"Very long nails -- to where they've actually curled. Guinea pigs have some urine burns on them from sitting in their own urine and feces," said Katie Osborne, Watertown Humane Society Board of Directors president.

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Katie Osborne

The Watertown Humane Society is now responsible for their care -- indefinitely.

"It could be a couple more weeks. It could be up to a year," said Osborne.

"The humane society is under contract with the city to provide that type of service," said Gruber.

Osborne said Thursday, July 5 thorough grooming was underway.

"The rabbits have huge masses of matting. Their hair has matted together," said Osborne.

The animals have consumed much of the Watertown Humane Society's space. Osborne said receiving such a volume at once can exhaust resources rather quickly.

"There's a lot of cages to clean," said Osborne.

In less than 24 hours, a GoFundMe page set up by the nonprofit raised more than $2,000.

"It's so heartwarming," said Osborne.

Still, Osborne said a number of comments on social media have painted them as the enemy.

"Calling us thieves -- that we're trying to make a profit off them -- and we're not," said Osborne.

Osborne said they have the best interest of the animals at heart.

"Alls we are trying to do is take care of these animals," said Osborne.

The city attorney said the animals' owner could possibly face criminal charges, or be subject to fines.

The investigation is ongoing -- so at this point, the animals aren't up for adoption. No arrests have been made.