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When Sharon Hall walked out into her backyard one morning in May, it took her a moment to process what she saw. 

Lined up and posed on the back lawn were 11 of her 12 show rabbits. They'd been removed from their hutch some time in the night, killed and then laid on the lawn in front of her back door. 

"They broke their necks and posed them like pictures, laying out, propped up on the elbows," she said. 

It was deeply unsettling. 

Hall called the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, which sent out a deputy to investigate. 

Hall, who is disabled and lives with her disabled brother, also uses the rabbits for therapy. Their deaths and the manner in which she found them left her troubled and despondent. 

So she turned to social media, sharing what had happened with other animal owners in the area. Many responded with similar tales of strange and disturbing incidents of animal cruelty. 

The sheriff's office has received no reports other than Hall's. And the agency's investigation into Hall's rabbits turned up no leads.

"We went out," said Yellowstone County Sheriff's Capt. Bill Michaelis. "I don't think they ever got a suspect."


Jasmine, a Holland lop rabbit, peers out of her cage in the relocated rabbit shed at Sharon Hall's home in Shepherd on Friday, July 14. Jasmine was one of nine survivors of Hall's original 14 rabbits.

Hall was disappointed.

"They can't do nothing," she said. 

Michaelis acknowledged that Hall's description of how the rabbits were killed and then displayed was unusual. 

"It's not normal," he said.  

And it would be concerning if more incidents like this were happening around the county. But if there's talk of it on social media, it's not reaching the sheriff's office. 

"All I'm seeing is the one call," Michaelis said. 

Musselshell County to the north and Carbon County to the south also had no reported incidents of cruel and unusual pet deaths. 

That's not to say the agencies never get animal cruelty calls. 

During the summer months, the Yellowstone County Sheriff's department receives dozens of calls reporting horses that appear malnourished or appear to be corralled in pens that are too small. 


Chickens mill around in the chicken coop at Sharon Hall's home in Shepherd on Friday, July 14. Six of Hall's hens also went missing in recent weeks and Hall found multiple decapitated chickens throughout her property.

The agency also gets a lot of calls for dead chickens. Usually, they've been killed by a dog, said Yellowstone County animal control officer Jeremy Kehrer.

Many times what looks like an incident of animal cruelty is simply mother nature, he said. The discovery of a rabbit with its leg torn off can look pretty violent, but usually it's just a neighborhood dog following its instincts, Kehrer said.  


A cowbell dangles from the fence into Sharon Hall's driveway in Shepherd on Friday, July 14. Window bars, cowbells and padlocks are a few examples of many precautions Hall has recently taken to protect her remaining animals.

"It's hard to tell," he said. 

Kehrer is the only animal control officer for the county, so he stays busy. He's usually the one to respond on an animal cruelty call. He's seen no unusual pet deaths this summer. 

"I haven't heard of any weird stuff going on," he said. 


Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.