GREEN
12/07/2012 03:43 pm ET

Andrew Smith, LAPD Commander: 'Rabbit People' Must Be Appeased With Animal Trafficking Arrests

A Los Angeles Police Department commander is facing criticism after a leaked email surfaced in which he suggested that a subordinate make arrests to appease animal rights activists.

The email, sent by LAPD media relations head Cmdr. Andrew Smith, was obtained by NBC Los Angeles after he hit "reply all." In the email, he refers to animal rights activists as "rabbit people" and suggests that a unit "make a few arrests for illegal animal purchasing so [as to] ... avoid negative coverage."

For the full text of the email, go to NBC Los Angeles.

In addition to being accused of policing for the camera, a charge that Smith denies, the comments have angered animal rights activists in Los Angeles.

"It's demeaning, it’s insulting and unacceptable," Lejla Hadzimuratovic, president of Bunny World Foundation, which rescues rabbits from illegal traffickers, told KNBC after reading Smith's email. "I'm livid when I read this. After all this work I've done [and] all the money we've put in."

But other animal rights activists weren't so quick to take offense at the comments. In a statement to The Huffington Post, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk wrote:

We don't think the LAPD commander meant more than a quick way to ID those of us who care about animals, although he may have been confused: "Rabbit people" are the ones in cages in laboratories, and we are the "human people" working to get them out.

Bunny World Foundation's mission involves rescuing animals from Santee Alley, a street in L.A.'s garment district where rabbits, turtles, cats, dogs and other animals are hawked on the street as pets.

"While the LAPD consider this atrocious act a simple misdemeanor, we think of it as animal cruelty. Not only is this an issue of animal cruelty, but it is an issue of public health and safety," Bunny World Foundation's site states.

A law prohibiting the sale and purchase of animals on the street was enacted in September 2011. One of the law's primary aims was to end the sale of baby rabbits in the fashion district, a practice that continues despite the ban.

Veterinarians have argued that these rabbits are often too young to be weaned from their mothers, and often die from starvation within hours of going home with a new owner.

According to police records, only three animal trafficking arrests have been made under the law this year.

CONVERSATIONS