Hartley: Is it ever OK to punch an evil rabbit?

Todd Hartley
I’m With Stupid

Did you ever see the movie “Willard,” starring Crispin Glover? It came out back in 2003 and didn’t fare that well at the box office, but it’s pretty good if you like creepy things like Crispin Glover. It’s about a guy who makes friends with the huge colony of rats living in his basement and then charmingly trains them to kill and devour someone.

Now, I’m as big a fan of pet rats as anyone; astute readers will remember that just a month and a half ago, I vowed to get one if they ever learn how to grow fur on their tails. And I loved “Ratatouille.” If I could get an adorable cartoon rodent to cook gourmet meals for me, you bet I would.

Even so, all the rats in “Willard” gave me the heebie-jeebies. I was a little freaked out, but I consoled myself by remembering that it was only a work of fiction — or was it? Turns out there may be a real-life Willard out there. Actually, I suppose I should say there would have been a real-life Willard out there had he not been arrested last week.

The guy, a 28-year-old from Arizona, was charged with animal neglect and cruelty after Yavapai County Health Services officials discovered 300 to 500 pet rats, many of them dead or dying, in and around a trailer owned by the man. County animal-control officers described the odor as “overwhelming.”

Let’s all pause for a moment to close our eyes and imagine ourselves in that trailer with 500 rats. Imagine the smell. Imagine the sight of the maggot-ridden, decaying rat corpses. Imagine the feel of dozens of rats scrambling over your feet.

Now say it with me: Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww! If that doesn’t give you the creeps, then there’s something very, very wrong with you, Willard.

It would almost be funny, in a Crispin Glover-y kind of way, if it weren’t so shockingly cruel. As a conditional lover of pet rats, I think the authorities should string the guy up — or at least make him pay a big fine, spend a few nights in jail and have to clean up dead rats and rat feces.

It kills me that someone could be so horrible to rats, especially when everyone knows that if you’re 28 years old and you have to be mean to small mammals, you’re supposed to punch rabbits.

What? You don’t believe me? You think I made that up about rabbits? Then how do you explain the 28-year-old man from Boynton Beach, Florida, who also was arrested last week on animal-cruelty charges after he pummeled his girlfriend’s pet bunny?

Sure, you could explain that away by saying, “It’s Florida. Of course someone beat the crap out of a rabbit. What else would you expect?” But I, for one, think the Florida man was just doing what the unwritten guy code dictates you do when a lagomorph gets on your nerves.

For the record, I am not advocating animal cruelty. You should never be cruel to animals. But if you ever find yourself in a position where you absolutely have to punch an animal, I say go with a rabbit. Trust me: That rabbit wouldn’t hesitate to punch you.

Right now, I know a lot of you PETA types are outraged — outraged, I tell ya! — that I would defend a rabbit puncher. You’re thinking of those adorable bunnies from “Watership Down,” which you last viewed 30 years ago, and you’re convinced rabbits are wonderful.

Do me a favor: Watch “Watership Down” again with your 6-year-old and tell me how that works out. That kid will have nightmares about General Woundwort until the day he or she dies.

And don’t even get me started on the rabbit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” which I heard was based on a true story.

If all this anti-rabbit sentiment sounds personal, it is. You see, I once owned General Woundwort. My brother and I bought a supposed mini-lop rabbit that was cute for about three days, and then it grew into a huge, evil creature that we couldn’t go near without wearing giant fireplace gloves to protect ourselves from its razor-sharp claws.

One time, I allowed Remy, as we’d named him, to get too close to my face. Wasting no opportunity, he took a swing at me, lacerating my lip and my nose and narrowly missing my eye.

So is it personal? You bet it is. A rabbit tried to kill me. I say punch away.

Todd Hartley’s rabbit currently guards the entrance to the Cave of Caerbannog. Look at the bones! To read more or leave a comment, please visit


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