Rabbit Breeders Face $4 Million in Fines

John Dollarhite and his wife Judy are facing a hefty fine after selling rabbits and rabbit meat by the pound from their home through their business Dollarvalue Rabbitry in Nixa, MO.

The couple was given a notice in April by the USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that they were being fined $90,643 and could avoid further penalties and dealings with the USDA if they paid it by May 23, which they declined to do. They could now face up to $4 million in penalties.

The fine is being issued by the USDA, which oversees the sale of animals, for selling more than $500 worth of rabbits in one year and for operating without a license. Between 2008 and 2009 they sold 619 rabbits, which earned them $4,600, with a profit of about $200.

The USDA reportedly found out about Dollarhite when an inspector was examining records at a licensed pet store who had obtained some of their rabbits. In 2009, an inspector showed up at their property and asked to do a spot inspection. She noted that cages were slightly too small and that there was a rust spot on a feeder, but the rabbits looked otherwise well cared for. 

The Dollarhites didn’t hear anything else until they were contacted by an APHIS investigator in 2010 for a meeting, after which they traded all of their equipment and shut down the operation.

The Dollarhite’s claim that they had absolutely no idea they needed any sort of license to do what they were doing. Dollarhite likens the business to running a lemonade stand, which is great, except that rabbits aren’t lemons.

The business was started about 6 years ago as a way to teach their son about responsibility. Soon after, they became well-known for their rabbits and took on some big buyers, including the theme park Silver Dollar City and Petland.

The USDA is also telling a different story. According to Dave Sacks, a USDA spokesman, Dollarhite contacted the USDA in 2006 asking for a license application kit, which they also stated was sent to him. Dollarhite says he never made that request.

The USDA is standing by their fine with the stance that they need to punish those who violate the Animal Welfare Act to ensure people get the proper licenses to operate.

“This is the only way we can ensure these animals are getting the care they need,” Sacks said.

Meanwhile, Missouri politicians and the Tea Party who were all about helping out commercial dog breeders a few months ago are setting up protests and taking steps to help the Dollarhites out of this jam.  



Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/captainsubtle/


Mary C.
Mary Cooke6 years ago

Why aren't they doing the same for the wild horses & burros? They are being exterminated by the blm & everyone is letting them go to it. The people who should be stopping it is going along with it! ABUSE galore. They should ALL be punished! Gov. always finds away out of it in this case gov. is going to help them ! I think I am going to be sick!!

michael g o'leary
michael o'leary6 years ago

they knew exactly what they were doing and they act as though they are completely clueless. it ain't working for me at all. what you did was terrible and you should be made to pay dearly. there is no excuse for what they did

Alison Personal Messages
Alison A6 years ago

Hi Dodia, I have seen your comments and I think that Lorraine has responded in a similar way to how I would have.

This article is not about child abuse, no matter how many times you repeat yourself.

I do not wish to compare one issue with another, they are totally separate and we do not have to choose, we can care for both if we want.

I find it outrageous that you have posted on an article which has nothing to do with children and started having a go at people for their lack of compassion for children, do you not see how ridiculous that is?

Even though this topic is about fines for not licensing their business as Lorraine has already mentioned, as it was due to animal breeding, it has provoked many people to share their disgust for animal cruelty, with that in mind I still do not recall anyone saying on this topic that they want to see animal abusers 'killed' and child abusers 'helped', so you appear to be just trolling this topic to vent your unrelated frustrations.

Terry W.
Terry W.6 years ago

Dollarhite has been selling rabbit meat for public consumption since at least Jan, 2006.

Without a license.


Lynne B.
Lynne Buckley6 years ago

Sigh. I think the fine quoted is unlikely to be upheld. However, I disagree that the Dollarhite's didn't know that they didn't request a license kit. There seems to be middle ground between all of the parties involved here. The primary importance is the welfare of the rabbits. They're the ones without a voice.

Dodia Fae
Dodia Fae6 years ago

Loraine, I do understand that people can feel passionately about more than one cause. My problem with so many of the commenters on this site is that they actually voice the opinion that animals are more important than humans, even children. I've seen people in this discussion calling for harshest penalties possible for these people (and from what I gathered from the article, the animals weren't abused, but were mostly sold to pet shops and petting zoos), while in the discussion about the boy in Singapore, people were actually calling for his death, when there was nothing evident in that piece about the pets in question being abused (he was scamming owners out of their pets and selling them for pocket money... no mention of any abuse to the animals aside from them being moved from one home to another... and if the original owner was so quick to give them up, maybe they were better off in the new homes?) But people were calling for this kid's *execution*.

I rarely ever see such calls for the death penalty when the subject of abuse (actual *abuse*) is a human child, and when I do, it's usually in my own comments. Because, you know, if they're abusing an animal, there's no hope for them. But if it's a *human* child, they just need some therapy.

Lorraine B.

Hi Dodia - I both understand and share your outrage over crimes against children and the seemingly non existent punishments handed to perpetrators. However, this case which we are discussing here has nothing to do with child abuse nor even animal abuse. This appears to be a story about the USDA levelling outrageous fines against a family who failed to obtain a busines licence. Although I agree that this was indeed an abusive situation that these poor rabbits were existing in, the USDA neither cared nor took any action because of their circumstances. The fine, whatever its final amount, with a possible high of 4 million dollars is going to be levied because of a failure to obtain a business license. Plain and Simple.
That being said, it is my own opinion that people caring about the welfare of animals does not in any way, shape or form, take away from their concern for any other issue. We are fortunately, not one dimensional creatures.

Dodia Fae
Dodia Fae6 years ago

@ Alison Personal Messages, I made the comparison because of my growing disgust with some of the commenters on this site... I have seen people who comment in an article about animal abuses, claiming that animals are better or worth more than people and calling for the execution of the abusers of the animals. Then I see people commenting in (the very rare) articles about child abuse that are posted on this site that the abuser(s) "need help", not making one single mention of all the help the victims will need, but probably will never get. I've seen people claim that viewing child pornography (which really aren't pornography... they're child abuse images and crime scene evidence) should not be a crime. I've even seen one or two of people calling both for the execution of animal abusers *and* claiming that child rapists "need help". But most of the people who get so outraged over animal abuse steer clear of the child abuse issues.

I am definitely enraged by animal abuses. But nothing will ever enrage me more than child abuse does. And when I see anyone placing animals above children, that just infuriates me to no end. And it's not the "gubment" doing that, it's the idiots who think animals are more important than people, even children. It's ludicrous.

Danica R.
Danica R6 years ago

they should pay the fine and then get jail time

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

Another sad tale!