EATON — The Preble County Sheriff’s Office continues an animal cruelty investigation which centers around the deaths of several rabbits which occurred on Thursday, July 31, at the Preble County Fair.
Several 4-H advisers reported that nine rabbits which were 4-H projects were found dead in their pens, according to Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson. All are reported to have been killed.
“This is believed to have occurred over a period of several hours throughout the day,” Simpson said in a news release Friday, Aug. 1.
Social media played a big part in spreading rumors and making the situation more difficult, according to Simpson.
Rumors included horses and other animals being poisoned or injured.
“It’s become a hindrance more than anything. People are posting names of people that allegedly did it, but nobody can provide us any factual information. It’s working against us instead of with us. People are claiming that they heard from this person and it’s usually three or four people deep. Obviously, we need firsthand knowledge, witness information,” he said on Monday, Aug. 4.
“We’re confident that there are people out there that probably know who’s responsible. We need those people to step up.”
“We’re working the information as it comes in, but we’re not to a point where we have credible suspect information,” Simpson added. “Most things you can track down pretty good but this is proving to be tracking down a lot of non-credible information. So you spend a lot of man-hours making phone calls, meeting with people, trying to figure out where they got their information and nothing’s been usable at this point.”
Simpson is trying to make sure people are sharing factual information.
“We’ve suggested to them as with anything that you would put on social media — make sure it’s truthful. In this case people are posting names, don’t simply base that on what a friend told you. If you’re going to make those kind of posts, make sure it’s accurate information.”
Despite all the rumors which circulated Thursday, no other reports of animal cruelty have been reported to law enforcement.
“We have had no reports of any other issues down there, the water being poisoned or bleach being put in the water. That was all generated that night during the first, probably hour or two, of everyone finding out that these rabbits had been killed. That shows you how quickly facts can be blurred and things can grow just on using social media,” Simpson stressed.
There is a $500 reward from the Agricultural Society being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whomever is responsible for the rabbit deaths.
Anyone with information can contact Deputy Brad Moore at 937-456-6262.
“Thursday night, with the rabbits, it’s kind of hard to say why an individual would do something like that,” Fair Manager James Mays said. “It’s kind of bad that you have a group of people who have that mentality. They come in here and they ruin the fair for the kids who lost their rabbits. I’m very disappointed in that.”
“On a positive,” Mays said, “All the kids, advisers and parents were talked to, trying to make sure that we get those kids back next year and to reassure them that we’re going to do all in our power to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”