HIGHLAND — Buttons the bunny is getting lots of love and food now in a new home. That's a dramatic change from where he was just days ago: Wandering a park with a dart through his head.
An American Fork girl named Katie was at Highland Glen Park in Highland with her brother on Friday when the wounded bunny caught their attention.
"We saw Buttons, and we were like, 'Oh my gosh, we have to help him,'" Katie said Monday.
The siblings tried to catch the bunny so they could take him to a vet, but Buttons wasn't going to make it easy for them. When the dart stuck in his head eventually caught on some brush, Katie was able to scoop the animal up.
"After 4 ½ hours of chasing him through a quite a few obstacles, we caught him," Katie said.
A dart had gone through the side of the bunny's cheek, right below his eyes, and it exited out in front of his nose.
"He got lucky that it just navigated under the bunny's skin," said Riverwood Pet Hospital veterinarian Yoeny Dobson. The vet was able to gently pull out the dart.
"This is a very lucky bunny," Dobson said.
Dobson said the 2-month-old domesticated bunny was probably set loose or got out of somebody's house and started living in the park when it got shot.
"I hope they catch whoever did it because that's actually abuse," Dobson said. "That's animal abuse."
Animal-rights advocates want the case prosecuted. The Humane Society of Utah on Tuesday said it is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of whoever shot Buttons.
"The person responsible needs to be held accountable before another animal or a person is harmed," said Gene Baierschmidt, Humane Society of Utah's executive director, in a prepared statement.
Killing, torturing or poisoning an animal is a misdemeanor in Utah punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Knowingly or intentionally torturing a pet is a third-degree felony. Such a conviction can result in a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.
Lone Peak police say it's also a violation of city ordinance to fire a projectile within city limits. Anyone with information about the bunny shooting is asked to contact the Lone Peak Police Department at 801-756-9800.Comment on this story
Fifteen-year-old Katie, who wants to be a veterinarian, doesn't understand why anyone would shoot a bunny.
"He's so cute," she said. "He's cuddly, even after he got shot."
While Buttons is safe has a clean bill of health and a new home with Katie, the teen is concerned for the safety of two other bunnies that were seen in the park at the same time as Buttons but weren't caught.
"We assume that most likely they had been shot at, but we have no idea what happened to the other two," Katie said. She plans to keep searching the park.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc, Annie Knox