Accused rabbit abuser faces protesters, pleads not guilty

Gatts would not comment about Carlisle's defense, but he hinted that Petland store policy might come into play. The franchise in Chapel Hill Mall closed after Carlisle's arrest. ''What Petland does is up to Petland,'' he said. ''I think she's been singled out and, yeah, I think she's going to be the scapegoat. ''I think that everybody's going to get an idea of what really happened and when they do, they're not going to be coming down so hard'' on Carlisle.

Akron Beacon Journal
August 17, 2009

Accused rabbit abuser faces protesters, pleads not guilty
Phil Trexler, Beacon Journal staff writer

PetlandLizCarlisle.JPG

Liz Carlisle, former Petland employee accused of drowning two rabbits at the store, listens as her attorney Ron Gatts talks to the media after her arraignment on two counts of animal cruelty in Akron Municipal Court. (Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal)

Gone with the two dead rabbits were the devious grin and swath of purple bangs from a Facebook photo that has riled animal advocates.

Instead, 20-year-old Liz Carlisle dressed in conservative gray and remained stone-faced amid a throng of protesters who confronted the former pet store worker as she made her first court appearance Monday to answer animal cruelty charges.

Carlisle pleaded not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges in Akron Municipal Court. She has a pretrial hearing before Judge Stephen Fallis on Sept. 3.

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 an avid animal lover.''

Gatts would not comment about Carlisle's defense, but he hinted that Petland store policy might come into play. The franchise in Chapel Hill Mall closed after Carlisle's arrest.

''What Petland does is up to Petland,'' he said. ''I think she's been singled out and, yeah, I think she's going to be the scapegoat.

''I think that everybody's going to get an idea of what really happened and when they do, they're not going to be coming down so hard'' on Carlisle.

On Monday, however, Carlisle had to endure the chants of protesters, who carried signs outside the Harold K. Stubbs Justice Center before, during and after the hearing.

''Justice 4 the defenseless,'' ''Bunny killers belong behind bars'' and ''Justice for drowned rabbits'' were among the signs protesters carried.

As Carlisle and her family left the courtroom, protesters in the courthouse hallway chanted ''No excuse for animal abuse'' and ''Liz is a liar.''

At one point, members of Carlisle's family struggled with a protester who boarded an elevator with them.

''I don't see your smile now like on Facebook,'' one woman taunted Carlisle as she stood in the elevator. ''What a thing to be famous for.''

Elinore Israel of Akron Voices for Animals was among the protesters. She said Carlisle's guilt is beyond question based on her Facebook entry alone.

''It was a horrid crime that she committed, and we're here to show people that there are those of us who are not going to stand for it. We're not going to stand back while animals are being abused. It's unforgivable and I hope they throw the book at her.''

Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or moc.lanruojnocaebeht|relxertp#moc.lanruojnocaebeht|relxertp.

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