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Humane Society of Southern Arizona Announces Findings from Animal Transfer Incident

TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) – The Humane Society of Southern Arizona released the findings from an investigation regarding the transfer and likely disappearance of hundreds of small animals. Terry Flores is the private investigator hired by the HSSA and he said it was an internal workplace investigation and not a criminal inquiry.

The report is about the controversial transfer of hundreds of small animals from the San Diego Humane Society to the HSSA and then the HSAA to a small “rescue group” in Maricopa County.

The rescue claimed it got most of the animals adopted, but has never shown proof. According to the HSSA, many of the animals may have been frozen to provide food for reptiles. The owners of the “rescue group” owned a reptile company in Maricopa County called the Fertile Turtle.

The HSSA said 17 interviews were conducted, which included Fertile Turtle owner Colten Jones. Flores stated some of those people were interviewed more than once. The investigator found the HSSA did not count the number of animals it received from the San Diego Humane Society, but it was close to 300.

The investigation found former HSSA CPO Christian Gonzales was the person who chose to send the animals to Jones. In the text messages from Jones to Flores, he states he was never given any directions or conditions from anyone for receiving the small animals and finding them a home.

He was just told “they needed to be cared for.” Jones stated earlier in that same text thread that he did not freeze or sell any of the animals. The day before he said, “I’m an animal lover and they were all placed in loving homes but we are private people who don’t want to be bothered.”

On Sept. 30, he sent another text saying, “Just because I’m a lover of all animals, not just the furry ones, doesn’t mean they were fed to snakes as many have accused me of.” Jones further asserted in his text messages the animals had a rough time on the day of the transfer.

He texted, “Also, I would like to make mention that the animals when I receive them were very stressed and some of those should not have been sent as they had tumors and were matted when I received them. This wasn’t from the Humane Society of Arizona. This was from where they were before that. The people want to be held accountable.”

He continued, “They should look at the people that were sent them as they cannot prove that they were in the best of health to be sent. They don’t have any of it documented or if they did why did they send them? Those are just death sentences when you add on stress. I would question they were not healthy from the beginning.”

In his executive summary, Terry Flores wrote “this incident was the result of a failure of leadership to conduct due diligence in exploring and understanding the magnitude of accepting such an unusually large animal transfer from a sister rescue organization. It also suffered from a lack of communication, assumptions about what was being asked of the team, and the absence of the CEO in directly managing such an undertaking. Furthermore, policies were either side-stepped or ignored and proper research into what rescues HSSA works with was not done.”

The board plans to hire a new permanent CEO within the next six months and said that person must have previous experience. The board still plans to take legal action against those involved.

Source: 13 News