A Morgan Hill woman who ran a nonprofit rabbit rescue for several years is charged animal cruelty and other crimes in relation to the death of one of the bunnies in her care, and the mistreatment of others, according to authorities.
Brenda Andringa, founder of South Bay Rabbit Rescue on Kalana Avenue, was forced to surrender 112 rabbits to the animal shelter following an investigation by Santa Clara County Animal Control officers, says a police report. The investigation began in May, when SBRR volunteers and other concerned residents alerted authorities about the unhealthy condition of one of Andringa’s rabbits, known as Hare-cules, who later died due to his injuries.
The volunteers also told animal control about the crowded, uncomfortable and unsanitary quarters in which Andringa was housing rescued rabbits on the unincorporated Kalana Avenue property in north Morgan Hill, says the county animal control investigation report. When an officer inspected the property on May 10—following an “emergency” tip from a volunteer—the officer found numerous rabbits suffering under the hot sun with no shade in dirty, cramped cages.
“I observed several empty or dirty water bowls, and litter boxes full of feces and urine,” says the animal control officer’s report found in Andringa’s criminal court file. “(A witness) showed me several rabbits he was concerned were near death from the heat.”
The officer gave the rabbits fresh water and noted in the report that the temperature at the time was 90 degrees. The report adds that the rabbit rescue site was equipped with fans over the kennels, but the fans were not turned on.
Andringa was charged by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office on July 6 with six misdemeanors related to the death and neglect of rabbits at South Bay Rabbit Rescue. Specifically, she is charged with three counts of cruelty to animals and three counts of failing to give proper care and attention to an animal.
Her next court date is scheduled for Dec. 8 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose, according to authorities. Andringa is out of custody while the charges are pending, with conditions that prohibit her from resuming animal rescue efforts, and from owning any animals other than service or personal animals, according to Deputy DA Shanthi Rajagopalan.
“The District Attorney’s Office takes animal cruelty and neglect cases very seriously,” Rajagopalan said in a statement. “Our intention is to hold the defendant accountable for the neglect, assist in rehabilitation where possible, and ensure that she cannot harm any other rabbits.”
Andringa did not respond to a phone call requesting comment. Her attorney, Brendan Barrett, declined to comment.
The current criminal case against Andringa is not the first complaint about her rabbit rescue efforts. In September 2020, Morgan Hill Police investigated complaints that she was keeping more rabbits than local ordinances allow at her home in the city limits.
City officials and Andringa agreed that if she moved the rabbits, the city would dismiss the case, City Attorney Don Larkin said. Authorities confirmed that she had moved the rabbits from her home in October 2020, and the case was dismissed in November.
Larkin said that case originated with “a number of complaints” to the police department about the noise and odor associated with the overabundance of rabbits in Andringa’s residential neighborhood.
In need of a new location to house her rescued rabbits, Andringa acquired a lease on the Kalana Avenue property in September 2020, says the county animal control report on the current charges.
Andringa has also been named on a “no adopt” list held by county animal control since 2017, says the investigation report.
Other animal rescue advocates have tried to bring attention to the conditions at SBRR for several months, and have actively assisted Santa Clara County with the investigation. A petition on change.org, started by Linda Sue this summer, asked county authorities to shut down SBRR due to Andringa’s alleged neglect of the animals in her care.
Two of the current charges against Andringa are related to the illness and subsequent death of Hare-cules. A witness alerted animal control that the rabbit was “suffering from a maggot-infested, untreated wound,” says the investigation report. The volunteer called Andringa to tell her about the wound. Andringa responded that she would search for a veterinarian to treat Hare-cules.
Hare-cules died of his wounds before Andringa found a vet to treat him, according to the animal control officer’s report.
The petition on change.org states, “Rabbit HareCules suffered a long, cruel inhumane illness and death under the care of a well known California rabbit rescuer representing herself as a nonprofit rescue, South Bay Rabbit Rescue/Brenda Andringa.”
The charge of cruelty to animals in the DA’s July 6 complaint says that Andringa “subjected (Hare-cules) to needless suffering and inflicted unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, and abused the animal, and failed to provide the animal with proper food, drink and shelter and protection from the weather.”