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Ex-pet store worker denies drowning rabbits after posting gruesome photo on Facebook

August 17, 2009 |  5:03 pm

Protesters

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals joined a protest outside an Akron, Ohio, court today to draw attention to a former pet store employee who allegedly admitted on Facebook to having drowned two injured rabbits.

Liz Carlisle, 20, of Ravenna in northeast Ohio, pleaded not guilty to two counts of animal cruelty at the  Akron Municipal Court while about 40 protesters outside held signs that read such things as "Justice 4 the Defensless," "Bunny Killers Belong Behind Bars," and "Elizabeth Carlisle Deserves Jail Time."

LizcCarlisle's controversy forced Petland to shutter its Akron store, and acknowledge that the rabbits experienced what the chain called horrific mistreatment. "Petland will in no way, shape or form tolerate any abuse of animals in its care. We are outraged of this gross violation of Petland's animal care standards," the company wrote in a news release earlier this month.

Her lawyer, however, says it's all a misunderstanding and that the young woman is actually an animal lover with an odd sense of humor:

Ron Gatts, an Akron attorney representing Carlisle, said the public is unaware of the entire story behind the photograph that prompted the charges against the Ravenna woman.

The image, posted on Carlisle's Facebook page, appears to show her holding a soaked and drowned small black rabbit in each hand. Carlisle is seen smiling in the photo and a comment on the social Internet site says the animals were euthanized through drowning.

''She regrets this. She regrets all of this,'' Gatts said.

Still, he said, the public will take a different look at the former Petland store worker once the facts are aired.

''I think when all the facts come out, I think people will understand who Liz is, not this monster that holds up rabbits and thinks it's a joke,'' he said. ''She doesn't. She takes this very seriously. She is an avid animal lover.''

The Humane Society of Greater Akron originally pressed charges against Carlisle. It was the pet store manager, Carlisle says, who took the gruesome photo of her with the dead wet rabbits, but a humane officer determined that Carlisle worked alone. She is scheduled for a pretrial hearing before Judge Stephen Fallis on Sept. 3.

-- Tony Pierce

Photos: (top) Animal rights activists in Akron, Ohio, protest outside of the Stubbs Justice Center, where Liz Carlisle, the former Petland employee accused of drowning two rabbits at the store, appeared before Judge James Williams during her arraignment on two counts of animal cruelty. Credit: Mike Cardew / Associated Press

(bottom) Liz Carlisle. Credit: Mike Cardew / Associated Press

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