Humane Society: More than 200 missing animals may have been frozen, fed to reptiles

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona gave a heartbreaking update about the possible fate of more than 200 small animals.
Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 1:49 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2023 at 6:33 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The Humane Society of Southern Arizona and Humane Society of San Diego on Thursday provided an update about the transfer of small animals from San Diego to Tucson.

In July, the Humane Society of San Diego asked the HSSA for help with a large group of small animals that included rats, guinea pigs and rabbits. In August, the HSSA transferred 223 small animals to a Maricopa County man named Colten Jones.

Only “62 animals were returned to HSSA,” according to both organizations. In a joint statement, they are now sharing what may have happened to the other animals. The statement reads:

“We have now received new information that sheds light on the likely outcome for the remaining animals. 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. 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.”

In a text message obtained by 13 news. It shows a text message on August 8th, just one day after the animals were delivered in Tucson, between Jones and another person in the industry. The text says “Do you have the ability to freeze off a bunch of guinea pigs and or rabbits? I don’t have the manpower or labor to be able to do it in time for the show and it’s too much for me.”

Board Chair Robert Garcia said he shares the “community’s outrage” over this and this text message has been handed over to investigators. The investigation by a group hired by HSSA has concluded, and the report will be published in early December.

The HSSA says it is considering legal action against Jones and former HSSA employees who may have been involved.

The HSSA says it has a communication with Colten a couple of days ago and he denies the accusations.

The Tucson Police Department has also opened a case due to the new information.

TPD says “the case was reported at the Westside Substation on November 2nd. Representatives from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona reported to police that several small animals were potentially sent to a reptile farm. The case is currently being triaged to TPD’s Financial Crimes Unit, the investigation is ongoing.”

The controversy led to two Humane Society leaders leaving the organization. CEO Steve Farley was terminated and CPO Christian Gonzalez resigned.

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