FRANKLIN COUNTY, MO. (KTVI) –Sheriff deputies and members of the Missouri Humane Society Animal Cruelty Task Force confiscated more than 250 animals from a Franklin County woman Tuesday morning.
Velma Muessemeyer said she has been raising rabbits for more than sixty years and there was nothing wrong with her methods. But authorities described the conditions for nearly two hundred rabbits and 25 pigmy goats as 'deplorable.'
The director of the Animal Cruelty Task Force Mike Perkins said vets told him many of the rabbits were 'living in their hutch with no bedding, living in their feces and there was approximately ten to 12 inches of feces underneath the outside kennels.
As many as thirteen domestic rabbits were crowded into one wire cage. Muessemeyer said she was getting ready to butcher some of them. 'This was part of my living cause I don`t get a lot of Social Security so this was to help me out,' she explained.
The woman admitted, 'rabbits are messy, yes they are messyand they are a lot of work, but I go through fifty pounds of feed a day.'
Rabbit feces littered the ground around the woman`s home near St. Clair, MO. Vets who examined the rabbits at the Humane Society`s facility in west St. Louis City said some had ear mites and respiratory problems. A few had infected wounds from fighting each other. Some were under weight, but some appeared plump.
Twenty-five pigmy goats, ten cats, four dogs, as well as 21 chickens and a duck were also removed from the property.
This is the second time in nearly four years Muessemeyer lost her animals. Officials removed 158 animals at that time. In 2010 a court settlement limited her to 20 new rabbits and some goats along with her pet dogs for two years. Authorities checked on herand she obeyed the limits. But after the two year period she refused to allow inspectors on her property.
Recently a woman bought two pigmy goats from herand one died. That prompted a complaint to the Franklin County Sheriff and facilitated the issuing of a warrant to search the property. Muessemeyer said the woman failed to follow the instructions for properly feeding the goat. She suspects she gave it milk after it had been weaned from its mother.
When asked if she ever used a veterinarian to check on her animals, Muessemeyer said no adding 'I know what is wrong with them; I could write eight books on rabbits.'
The Franklin County Prosecutor is waiting for reports from the sheriff deputies before deciding if any criminal charges will be filed. The Humane Society will care for the animals until a deposition hearing on December 4 to determine if the animals should be returned to Muessemeyer.
A neighbor and friend, Helen Busse said Muessemeyer believed she was acting in the animals' best interests. "I am very saddened because I know how much her animals mean to her," she added.
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