Humane Society of Southern Arizona board chair Robert Garcia says it now appears around 260 missing small pets, including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and rats, may have been used as food for reptiles.
The Humane Society transferred the animals in August to Colten Jones, a Maricopa County man who runs an unaccredited reptile business.
“The day after receiving these animals, Colten Jones sent a text message seeking assistance in processing a high volume of guinea pigs and rabbits for food,” Garcia said. “We know that Mr. Jones runs a reptile breeding company called the Fertile Turtle. A part of this business includes selling both live and frozen animals for reptile feed.”
The animals were originally brought to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona from the San Diego Humane Society.
Garcia says the Human Society in Tucson filed a police report on the incident and is considering legal action against both Colten Jones and former Humane Society employees.
Humane Society CEO Steve Farley was fired and Chief Programs Officer Christian Gonzalez resigned in connection to the incident.
Garcia says the organization has never experienced an incident like this one.
“We could not have conceived anything like this happening in connection with our organization,” he said. “And yes, I’m sad. I’m heartbroken for the animals. I’m heartbroken for the community. I’m heartbroken for the organization, whose mission it is to protect and save animals.”
The Human Society hired an independent investigator in September and says that report will be published in early December.