OAKLAND (KCBS) – Authorities have removed 21 malnourished rabbits from an apartment complex near Lake Merritt where their owner had been raising them to be eaten.

The rabbits were fed only rice and crowded into two wire cages by an owner who did not understand how to properly raise them, said Marcy Schaaf, director of the non-profit Save A Bunny.

READ MORE: Feds: 'Head of the Snake' Taken Down In Nuestra Familia Prison Gang Bust

“It’s a craze and that’s a really good word for it. Once people discover what it really takes to slaughter an animal in your backyard, it’s not going to be as popular,” she said.

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

The dehydrated animals were covered in excrement because they were stacked on top of each other inside the tiny cages in a common area of the apartment complex.

READ MORE: San Jose Man Charged In 'Horrific' Torture Murder Of 72-Year-Old

They are now being held for adoption at the Oakland Animal Shelter. Officials said the shelter now has 55 rabbits housed in a space designed for 30.

“Despite being cruelly treated, they are still trusting of humans and they’ll make somebody a wonderful companion animal,” Schaaf said, adding that they would be spayed and neutered.

The city plans to hold a number of community meetings to review its agricultural laws this summer because of the renewed interest in urban farming promoted by West Oakland resident Novella Carpenter.

Authorities are investigating whether to bring animal cruelty charges against the rabbits’ owner.

MORE NEWS: COVID: Oakland, West Contra Costa Schools Mull Vaccine Mandates For Students

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)