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Middletown woman pleads guilty to abandonment after dozens of rabbits dumped in park

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Posted at 7:02 AM, May 26, 2021

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — A Middletown woman has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of animal abandonment for dumping dozens of rabbits in Smith Park, the Journal-News reports.

Leah Mendoza, 43, of Tytus Avenue, was charged with 35 counts of the second-degree misdemeanor after the domestic rabbits were trapped and rescued from the park on May 15.

Last week, Mendoza pleaded guilty to seven charges in Middletown Municipal Court. Mendoza was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence, $100 fine, and ordered not to own animals for five years, other than two service dogs in the home and one rabbit. She was placed on one year probation and ordered to do 35 hours of community service.

“We were at Casting with a Cop when someone from Joseph’s Legacy (animal rescue) came up to me and (Officer) Holly Owens asking if we had seen any bunny rabbits,” said Middletown Police Chief David Birk.

Police and rescuers rushed to trap 35 domestic bunnies that were dumped in the park after seeing a social media post the night before.

Middletown animal control officer Jamie Hearlihy, who was already at the park for the police event, investigated and charged Mendoza.

According to the police report, another 30 rabbits were taken from Mendoza’s house.

Meg Melampy, executive director of Joseph’s Legacy, said many volunteers from animal rescue agencies throughout the region showed up with animal carriers and nets. The rabbits are now in foster homes with various rescue groups in the area.

The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 News.