When asked about drugs at a Phoenixville mayoral forum, Republican nominee Dave Gautreau proposed that, if elected, he would look into getting drug-sniffing bunnies for the borough police department.
Though it seems like a harebrained idea, Gautreau was as serious as the killer rabbit of Caerbannog.
"I was dead-serious," he said of the idea he presented at the Thursday forum. "I would not make a joke about a rabbit if I did not believe it to be true."
Residents wary of the proposal did what the candidate did not do: They hopped on the internet.
A quick search clearly reveals the joke. The fuzz at the police department in Amherst, N.Y., proposed narcotics rabbits on their Facebook page as an April Fool's joke in 2016 and a satire page called People of Lancaster posted a fake article about Lancaster police getting drug-sniffing bunnies in March 2016.
Gautreau — whose slogan is "Vote for Goat" and whose website prominently features a cartoon goat — said he was at a party last winter and talked about possibly entering the mayoral race. He mentioned that he'd like to get the borough K-9 officers to combat a drug problem he sees in the area, but the dogs would be a big expense.
Someone at the gathering told him Lancaster police were using drug-sniffing rabbits, which were much cheaper.
Gautreau said he called Lancaster shortly thereafter — though he couldn't recall whether he phoned the police department or the city offices — and a woman, whose name he does not recall, confirmed to him that Lancaster used narco bunnies.
The woman "sounded convincing," he said. "I should have googled it then, but I didn't."
Lancaster City Police Lt. Bill Hickey said it's unlikely anyone in his department confirmed the employment of narcotics bunnies.
"I can assure you we do not use any type of rabbits in our law enforcement activities, nor do we have plans to," Hickey said.
Perhaps Gautreau should have run the idea by his Chester County sheriff, Carolyn "Bunny" Welsh.
Phoenixville residents' reactions to Gautreau's misguided proposal ranged from amused to angry.
"I'm really hoping this gets him laughed right off the ballot," local banjo player Tom Dieffenbach wrote on Facebook. "I found some compelling articles in Mad magazine that I'm gonna send his way."
Borough resident Justin Sands wrote on Facebook: "I guess you could say today is the day that Dave's campaign sunk and went Watership Down … Amririte?!"
And Phoenixville resident Mike Burns noted that being mayor is a "great responsibility" that includes overseeing the police department. "If something as eyebrow-raising as "drug rabbits" isn't enough to warrant a simple Google search, what type of effort will he put into deciding less preposterous initiatives?" he wrote on Facebook.
Gautreau's Facebook candidate page, where he posted a mea culpa Friday, appears to have been taken down. The same mea culpa post appeared on his personal page Friday but has since been removed.
When he responded to this reporter's request for comment on Friday, Gautreau was willing to own up to his mistake.
"Obviously, in the world of politics, you can see how fast things can go south for you," he said.