TAMPA — The man who had 156 rabbits confiscated from his North Tampa home by Animal Control officers will not be without a pet.
Hillsborough Judge Nick Nazaretian on Wednesday granted Peter Bordwell, also known as Peter Rabbit, the right to get his cat "Happy" back.
Happy and three kittens were also taken from the home in January when officials, responding to a tip about rabbits in the house, he was charged him with 160 misdemeanor counts of improper confinement of animals.
Bordwell, 68, told Nazaretian that in about a week he will be moving to a house on 1.3 acres in Plant City, property he purchased more than a year ago with plans of fencing it in for his rabbits.
However, he did not have the money to pay for the fence before his pets were seized.
Animal Control has spent more than $1,800 on the rabbits, who were placed with Rabbit Rescue, and asked that Bordwell put a down payment of $200 before getting Happy back.
Nazaretian agreed, but also said he may consider lowering the debt.
"He appears to be a good guy," Nazaretian said. "He's just a little misguided."
In addition to the $200, Bordwell will have to adhere to strict care guidelines, which Animal Control officials will put together.
Bordwell presented to Nazaretian documents more than 2 inches thick detailing about $25,000 worth of vet care for the rabbits over a two-year period, which the judge found commendable. He requested that Bordwell return to court on May 6 with photographic evidence of his new property. And if Bordwell wants more pets later, he must get permission from the court, Nazaretian said
"We're not just going to let you run free in Plant City and let you grow a zoo out there," Nazaretian said, "We're going to take it a step at a time and remain positive."
Bordwell said getting his cat back was bittersweet.
"Now I have one cat for 1.3 acres," Bordwell said. "It was the Promised Land. Now it's a field of broken dreams."