When Michelle Casey and the staff at Central Missouri Humane Society knew what happened, the rabbit was gone.
Columbia police say they arrested Nicholas Jones Wednesday night for stealing the brown and black rabbit from the shelter. Police said they found Jones at the Tiger Village Apartments shortly after on Tiger Lane in west Columbia. There, they found the rabbit hanging from the deck in front of the apartments.
“I don’t think any of us saw this being the outcome,” Casey said. “So, it’s just absolutely heartbreaking. Just absolutely a shock.”
Casey said Jones came in that afternoon asking to adopt a rabbit. After filling out an initial application, staff there took him back to the small animal room to interact with the rabbits up for adoption. After selecting one he wanted, the staff member tried leading him back to the desk to call his landlord and discuss the adoption process. Casey said when the staff member left the room, she noticed Jones was not following her. She back-tracked, and found he had left, the rabbit gone, as well. When she notified the director, they discovered he left through a side door near the small animal room that leads to the parking lot.
“By the time he got to the parking lot, it was maybe only five to seven minutes before someone realized what had happened,” Casey said. “So I’m sure he had just pulled out of that driveway, too, and we just missed him.
Residents at Tiger Village apartments said they saw a man, believed to be Jones, acting strangely, yelling at people nearby. Many did not know about what happened with the rabbit.
Julie Abner,new executive director of the animal shelter, said she will suggest putting more volunteers in the back rooms with the animals to keep an eye on things. She also said she will remind them to watch people that come and go closely. She did not want to make a more restrictive system of potential adopters meeting the animals, since the interactions help pets get adopted.
In twelve years working at the Central Missouri Humane Society, she said she’s never experienced something like this.
As of Thursday night, the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office had not filed charges against Jones.