PETA has the photo of the rabbits. Warning. It's shocking and heartbreaking.
Beacon Journal story by Jim Carney follows.
The Petland store at Chapel Hill Mall in Akron has been closed after a former employee at the store was charged with two counts of animal cruelty.
Accusations of animal cruelty were raised after the employee allegedly posted a photograph of herself drowning two rabbits in the store's back room on Facebook — an Internet-based social network.
The store has been closed and will not reopen, according to a press release from the Chillicothe-based Petland.
Petland said the decision to close the store was made ''in response to a recent incident regarding the horrific mistreatment of rabbits.''
Tim Harland, senior humane officer for the Humane Society of Greater Akron, said Liz Carlisle, a former employee, has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals in Akron Municipal Court.
Harland said his agency was tipped of the July 28 incident by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
PETA has called on the owner of Petland chain, Ed Kunzelman, and its president Frank Difatta, to no longer sell rabbits at any of its stores nationwide.
Authorities say the Facebook photo showed a smiling Carlisle holding two dead rabbits. The photo was allegedly taken by a store manager.
''Petland will in no way, shape or form tolerate, any abuse of animals in its care,'' the company said in its statement. ''We are outraged of this gross violation of Petland's animal care standards.''
Petland said the animals at the Chapel Hill store will be removed. The store was owned and operated by a local franchisee. Petland did not release the name of the store's owner.
Akron police said they were not aware of the incident.
Petland said it will take ''any and all action necessary as this does not, in any way, represent the culture and dedication to animals of the thousands of professional Petland employees who provide extraordinary care every day across the country.''
PETA, in its statement, said Petland ''should follow the example of other national chains and immediately stop selling these small, vulnerable animals.''
Harland said this appears to have been isolated incident and Carlisle told investigators that it was her decision to drown the rabbits.
''She thought it was in the best interest of the rabbits,'' he said because they had suffered injuries inflicted upon themselves.
Carlisle, 20, of Ravenna, could not be reached for comment. She is scheduled to be in Akron Municipal Court on Aug. 17.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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