Because bunnies are such adorable little critters, people are hopping mad about a Web site called savetoby.com, filled with photos and even a video of a cute rabbit named Toby, accompanied by a threat on his life.
"On June 30, 2005, Toby will die," proclaims an anonymous author on the site. "I am going to eat him. God as my witness, I will devour this little guy unless I receive $50,000 into my account."
The site also contains several recipes for cooking Toby. One, for Lapin Braise, lists as the prime ingredient: "1 Toby cut in serving-sized pieces."
Animal lovers, like Sue Brennan, who runs a shelter called "Rabbit Haven" in Gig Harbor, Washington, are outraged.
"I think it's purely emotional blackmail and it was all designed to get a reaction," says Brennan. "The reaction he is looking for is money."
She and other animal rights activists have been calling for it to be taken down. But GoDaddy.com, an Arizona company that hosts the site, refuses to pull the plug. Bob Parsons, GoDaddy founder and president says, "There's nothing illegal about the Web site. It's perfectly legal to eat a rabbit."
Parsons says he's skeptical about the seriousness of the anonymous threat.
"To be honest," he notes, "we don't know if he's actually going to eat the rabbit. We don't even know if there is a rabbit."
Harebrained idea of two college students
The brains behind savetoby.com are two college students on the east coast who agreed to talk to NBC News on the condition that their identities and location not be disclosed.
"We've been getting tremendously varied responses," says one of the partners. "Many of which include death threats almost on a daily basis."
Asked whether the Web site was a joke, he responded, "No, not at all. As a matter of fact, it's very serious. If we don't get $50,000, we are going to eat the rabbit."
So, how do you save Toby from being put in a cooking pot on June 30? The Web site says you can either buy merchandise, such as T-shirts and coffee mugs, or you can simply donate money to the cause. But after animal lovers besieged PayPal, the online payment company shut down the "save Toby" donations link.
Some animal rights advocates don't think that savetoby.com should be getting any publicity at all, fearing that it will inspire others to do the same thing, causing these schemes to multiply (like you know what) across the Internet, over and over.
So far, the Web site claims it's collected more than $20,000. The other partner in the Save Toby venture also says they have landed a book deal with Kensington Publishing of New York.
"It's going to include some recipes and a really nice picture layout," he says. "And it's also going to include an essay on animal rights activists and why we think they're nuts."
As for those activists, they think that trying to make money off of threatening the life of a rabbit is a pretty harebrained scheme.