A colony of rabbits living in a garden yard behind an apartment building in Gowanus has attracted the scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors.
The district attorney's office said Thursday it was acting on a tip about what it referred to as an “alleged colony” of rabbits behind 466 Third Ave., which is maintained by a local woman who says she keeps the animals “for the people, so that they have a little part of nature by their side.”
Animal groups — including PETA, Big Apple Bunnies and NYCLASS — have been monitoring the rabbits and claim they are living in such unsafe conditions that it may constitute cruelty. Their concern for the animals has increased with the bone-chilling temperatures.
"It's freezing cold outside," said Natalie Reeves of Big Apple Bunnies. She said she filed a complaint with the Brooklyn district attorney's office on Tuesday. "These rabbits have no more protections than a dog or cat would have outside in the elements."
In a letter to the district attorney's office, PETA said the animals were "in desperate need." "Rabbits in the wild live underground in groups in dry, draft-free burrows," wrote Kristin Simon, a caseworker for PETA. "Exposure to drafts, winds, and/or precipitation greatly weakens their immune systems, which can result in illness."
But the woman who owns the animals, Dorota Trec, said the rabbits had burrows and two lean-tos where they could go for shelter.
"When I checked them today, they took the temperature very well," she said, adding that she closely monitored her rabbits and took any that were ailing into her home when needed.
"There's nothing unusual I'm doing for my rabbits," said Trec, who is originally from Poland. "I'm doing my best. And they have the best. I am working with them four hours a day."
She said she wasn't aware of the investigation by the Brooklyn district attorney's office. "There's nothing illegal about having these rabbits," she said.
A worker at the tire shop located in front of the yard, said police officers had stopped by on Wednesday.
She declined to say how many rabbits were in the yard, though advocates say they had counted at least 80 and were worried that they would breed to an unmanageable number. Trec said she was unconcerned.
"It's a big, big garden, and they are not in crowded conditions," Trec said. "From my point of view, they have a better life than a pet rabbit. I see how much they like looking at the sky."