Rabbit owner makes plea to city to keep his pets

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - "I can't imagine losing any of them," Von Ruder said.

The 57-year-old Gainesville resident suffers from PTSD, Tourettes, and he lost his leg in a rock climbing accident more than 30 years ago. But his rabbits, all "19 or 20" of them take the pain away.

"It helps me from getting too wound up and tense," Ruder said.

He says when he moved into his home five years ago he noticed rabbits roaming the neighborhood and started caging them.

"There's no odor, there's no noise, they're extremely quiet animals," Ruder said.

But now he's worried he'll have to give them up. Some complaints from neighbors and animal control about loose rabbits have put him in the spotlight.

"Apparently there are rabbits throughout the neighborhood, several have been run over by cars and it doesn't seem like the safest situation going on there," Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward said.

Ruder says those rabbits can't be hi, he never takes them out of their cages.

"It actually seems to keep the other rabbits away," Ruder said. "The rabbits on the ground don't like to be around rabbits in cages."

The issue doesn't stop there, the city code only allows you up to two rabbits on any single property within city limits. So he's asking for an exception, for medical reasons, to let him keep them all.

"It's the only therapy I've found that overrides my PTSD and allows me to live a normal life," Ruder said.

But until they can find a solution to the loose rabbits, Ruder has to wait.

"Focusing on the rabbits is the only thing that keeps me calm," Ruder said.

The city plans to hear from Ruder and his neighbors in a commission meeting in March.