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Linda Baley of Redondo Beach turned to neighbors and friends for help when officials told her to abide by a three-rabbit-per household limit. (Sean Hiller / Staff Photographer)
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The Easter bunny brought friends this year.

Sixteen of them, in fact, some covered in short black fur, others with fluffy coats of white angora. There's a lop-eared rabbit, a litter of newborn bunnies and a beige armful of a hare named Big Mama.

Linda Baley of Redondo Beach didn't anticipate rescuing so many animals, nor did she expect her work would stretch from Christmas to Easter.

And she said she never wanted to get the neighbors involved, but a complaint from a nearby resident prompted a directive from city animal control authorities, who asked that she abide by a three-rabbit-per-household limit.

That's why - for roughly a week - five homes on and around Rockefeller Lane were temporarily housing her hares.

But Baley said she just couldn't leave the bunnies. When she saw the animals roaming the man-made island at Alondra Park, where many were presumably abandoned by irresponsible owners, she was intent on bringing them home.

"When I saw this on the island, I wasn't going to leave it," said Baley, 40, who runs an education and adoption service called Too Many Rabbits.

Since her operation began in late December, the majority of the rabbits have been spayed or neutered - not counting the litter of tiny newborns. They've been treated for mites, raccoon bites and parasites. And thanks to the Ralphs market on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach, Baley has kept them fed with daily donations of carrots and cabbage.

She said she started out with 35 rabbits and is now looking for families to adopt 16. In recent weeks, Baley said she's taken her plea to local schools, but it comes with a message.

"I'm wanting to educate people about not dumping first, and second, finding homes," she said.

Other rabbit rescuers give similar warnings, especially at Easter.

"Abandoning is illegal. And people need to think about that before they get a rabbit," said Michelle Kelly,

Big Mama, a hare, is an armful for Linda Baley of Redondo Beach, but the 35 rabbits she's rescued and cared for since Christmas have been a handful for her and her neighbors. Baley has been trying to find homes for 16 rabbits since she discovered people were leaving them in Alondra Park. (Sean Hiller / Staff Photographer)
president of the Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation, which raises money for the animals to be spayed and neutered.

She contends many bunnies in pet shops this time of year were taken from their mothers too early, and that not all buyers are thinking about long-term care.

"What I say is, look, if you want to get a real rabbit, we want to encourage people to adopt after Easter," Kelly said.

Baley's operation began with a phone call from two women who had spotted rabbits roaming Alondra Park's island, where volunteers have created a native plant garden. The women had heard she'd rescued rabbits on occasion. Baley, who already had two of her own, arranged for a visit Dec. 26.

On the island - which is linked to the park by a footbridge, but blocked to the public by a gate - the rabbits were living without food. Jeanne Bellemin, a zoology professor at El Camino College who voluntarily oversees the garden, said she suspects people "kind of drop them" through the fencing.

"I think they think they're doing a good thing," she said, "but the bunnies, they either starve to death or get eaten by hawks."

Baley, who with her partner, Daryll Strauss, runs a digital effects company, wasn't working much at the time because of the writers strike.

So bunny rescue became a full-time job. She packed crates into her car and set out to bring the animals back to Redondo.

Gary Liebsack, regional recreation director for the county Parks

Haley Long pets Mocha, a rabbit her family got from rescuer Linda Baley, who runs the adoption service Too Many Rabbits. (Sean Hiller / Staff Photographer)
and Recreation Department, said officials agreed to give Baley access to the island, realizing her work could benefit the animals and the garden.

"Linda has a special interest in it," he said. "We see it as a public service."

The past few months have been busy with vet visits, calls to fellow rescue groups and record keeping. Each rabbit has a name - there's Rudy, Bruiser, Rover and Birdie - and a file documenting its progress.

With time, wounds began to heal, and the hungry animals filled out, she said.

But just as the rabbits were adjusting to life in the beach city, Baley got a call from Redondo animal control authorities, who had been contacted by a neighbor complaining of urine, feces and hay odors emanating from her yard. The city didn't cite Baley, but decided she was violating the kennel rules.

And so, the bunny hop began.

She solicited help from a handful of neighbors, split the animals into groups and moved them into five homes in the neighborhood. Armed with boxes of fresh vegetables, Baley said her days were spent making house calls.

And that was her routine for more than a week, until she got a reprieve Friday morning from Redondo Beach.

After a review by the City Attorney's Office, officials decided the kennel rule is not strong enough to apply to rabbits - only dogs and cats, said Police Chief Joe Leonardi, who asked that an officer deliver the news with a warning.

"My suggestion was that he tell her, you can bring the rabbits back, but strongly suggest she pay attention to the other laws, such as pollution control," he said.

"Our main concern was also, you put a high density of a living thing in a small space and it causes potential health problems."

But Baley maintains the situation is only temporary, anyway. She wants to get the animals adopted, and she's asking for families to make donations to two organizations she works with - the Los Angeles Rabbit Foundation and the Amanda Foundation. She hopes the money will help defray some of her vet bills, estimated at $5,000.

"These are the cutest little cuddle-bugs," Baley said. "There are a lot of beautiful people who want a house rabbit."