Humane Society 'devastated' after probe exhibits dozens of tiny pets from San Diego seemingly fed to reptiles

Dozens of small animals transferred from San Diego to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona in August seemingly turned meals at a reptile farm in Maricopa County, the group stated Thursday.

Throughout a press convention, Robert Garcia, an lawyer who chairs HSSAZ’s board, stated his group transferred 323 animals to Colten Jones—one among two brothers who run the Fertile Turtle, a Phoenix-area reptile enterprise. Of these animals, simply 62 have been returned to HSSA after the group started asking questions, and the nonprofit has “labored since their return to find out the destiny of the lacking animals.”

“We’ve now acquired new data that sheds mild on the seemingly final result for the remaining animals,” Garcia stated. “The day after receiving these animals, Colten Jones despatched a textual content message in search of help in processing a excessive quantity of guinea pigs and rabbits for meals.”

October: Humane Society fires Farley for ‘terribly negligent’ dealing with of lacking small pets

“We all know that Mr. Jones runs a reptile breeding firm referred to as the Fertile Turtle,” Garcia stated. “Part of this enterprise consists of promoting each dwell and frozen animals for reptile feed.”

“The board, workers and volunteers of HSSA and SDHS share our neighborhood’s outrage and this newest piece of knowledge that clearly signifies Mr. Jones’ intention to make use of these animals as feed as an alternative of discovering them adoptive houses,” Garcia stated. “We’re heartbroken for each one among these animals and each particular person who shares our concern for them.”

“We couldn’t have conceived something like this occurring in reference to group,” Garcia stated. “I am heartbroken for the animals and heartbroken for our neighborhood and heartbroken for our group whose mission is to guard and save animals. And so yeah, I am devastated. Our communities devastated our staff are devastated the place we whether or not we now know and have data on the seemingly final result, and this isn’t what we wished.”

In early August, the Humane Society of San Diego requested for assist discovering houses for dozens of small “pocket pets,” together with rabbits, guinea pigs and different small animals. HSSAZ agreed to assist and by August 8, the California group undertook a “mass transport — the most important in San Diego Humane Society’s historical past” — to alleviate strain on overcrowded shelters sending 318 animals from San Diego to Tucson.

The small pets had “a brand new likelihood at discovering loving households,” the San Diego group stated in a press launch touting the transfer.

Nevertheless, weeks after the switch, SDHS started asking for details about the adoptions of the animals. Among the many animals have been 70 rabbits who have been microchipped, nonetheless the registration information for these chips was not up to date, the group stated.

Quickly it turned clear the animals had been shipped to a “personal family-run group” in Maricopa County, as was first reported by Arizona Public Media, and workers and supporters of the California rescue group weren’t glad with the restricted details about the location of the animals.

The enterprise related to that group, the Fertile Turtle, has not responded to the Sentinel’s requests for remark. The enterprise, which has posted snakes on the market at costs of as much as $2,000, has deactivated its social media pages for the reason that controversy started.

Within the following weeks, the organizations confronted growing strain to account for the lacking animals, together with days of protests on the San Diego Humane Society. By early October, HSSAZ sacked CEO Steve Farley and accepted the resignation of Christian Gonzalez, the chief applications officer on the personal Tucson animal shelter who oversaw the switch.

Throughout a press convention in October, Garcia stated Colten Jones and his brother Trevor stated 254 animals have been positioned in houses, although they offered “no data of adoption,” he stated. Additional, not one of the dozens of lacking rabbits have been traced, an SDHS spokeswoman instructed the Sentinel. 

The HSSAZ board didn’t be taught of the involvement of Colten Jones — the proprietor of the reptile farm — till weeks after the switch, and Farley and Gonzales have been positioned on go away that day, partly to make sure folks might present data with out concern of retaliation. 

The HSSAZ board “found that Trevor Jones was merely a person who routinely facilitated animal adoptions, primarily by way of private relationships at his church and in the neighborhood and was not a licensed rescue operation,” Garica stated final month. 

He added the group’s “passionate workers had nothing to do with” the switch of the animals to Phoenix, and that there have been “relentless threats to workers’s psychological and bodily well-being.”

The “poor judgment” of the “former management” has “threatened the continued work of our group,” Garcia stated.

“We’ve a accountability to hunt definitive solutions concerning the destiny of those animals,” Garcia stated. “We have constantly acknowledged our dedication to pursuing authorized motion when warranted.”

Garcia stated Wednesday HSSAZ might pursue authorized motion towards former staff and Jones, nonetheless, he demurred when requested to call the HSSAZ staff might face authorized motion. 

“I do not wish to title names,” Garcia stated.

He added the San Diego and Tucson organizations will work to “advance each civil and legal proceedings.” The organizations additionally requested for folks with related data to contact the Tucson Police Division.

Garcia additionally instructed reporters an investigator with HSSAZ has been in common contact with Colten Jones, who has denied the allegations. The textual content message from Jones asking for assist processing the animals got here from a Tucson reporter, Garcia stated.

“Nicely, the knowledge absolutely tells us what the intention was with the animals,” he stated. “We have requested repeatedly for Mr. Jones to offer us data on the contrary, and he has not. So we are able to solely make determinations based mostly upon the knowledge that we now have.”

He added an inner investigation was ongoing and stated a report needs to be revealed in early December.

“These investigations and corresponding suggestions are crucial to make sure this tragedy by no means occurs once more and that those that are accountable are held accountable,” Garcia stated. “We we’ll take authorized motion as acceptable. However additional, we’ll concentrate on our mission. We’ve employed a beautiful interim CEO who is actually making fairly a distinction in serving to us change our tradition, and ensure this by no means occurs once more.”

Farley ‘within the canine home’

Farley served as a state consultant after which senator from Tucson, leaving the Legislature due to time period limits. He was named Humane Legislator of the 12 months a number of instances. Generally known as a lot for his public artwork tasks — together with the tiled photographic murals on the Broadway entrance to Downtown — he pursued unsuccessful main campaigns for Arizona governor and Tucson mayor. Farley was additionally faraway from his submit on the advisory committee for the Pima County Animal Care Heart.

When he was employed 3.5 years in the past, he stated he “could not be happier to be within the canine home.”

Gonzales labored for the native Humane Society for 12 years, in line with the group’s web site.

Because the COO of the group, he was “a driving pressure over the previous 16 months to assist discover higher methods to look after the pets needing short-term shelter,” HSSAZ’s website stated.

“His different true ardour is spending his time caring for and rescuing reptiles. He has been concerned within the rescue and placement of lots of of reptiles nationwide,” the positioning stated.