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Humane societies probe transfer of 250 small animals that may have later been fed to reptiles

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Roughly 250 small animals that were transferred from California to Arizona may have ended up being fed to reptiles, according to two humane societies.

Tucson TV station KVOA investigated the animals’ whereabouts in September, a month after 300 small animals were transferred from the overcrowded San Diego Humane Society to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona in Tucson.

The Arizona Republic reported that the transfer was a collaboration between the two groups and that the animals then went to a man who ran a reptile breeding company that also sold both live and frozen animals for reptile feed.

The newspaper said the man ended up returning 62 of the animals to the Tucson-based humane society, leaving about 250 rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice to an unknown fate.

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“We could not have conceived something like this happening in connection with our organization,” Humane Society of Southern Arizona board chair Robert Garcia said at a news conference Thursday. “I’m heartbroken for the animals, I’m heartbroken for our community, I’m heartbroken for our organization whose mission it is to protect and save animals.”

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona fired its CEO last month and also accepted the resignation of its chief operating officer.

The Tucson organization now is considering legal actions against the reptile breeding company with a completed report of its internal investigation expected next month. The San Diego Humane Society’s investigation remains ongoing.