Secrecy around a recent transfer of more than 300 small mammals to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona is raising questions and animal advocates are offering a $1,500 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the missing animals.
In early August, 318 rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice and hamsters were transferred from the San Diego Humane Society to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
Local CEO Steve Farley says a private rescue in Maricopa County that wants to remain anonymous was able to find forever homes for 250 of the animals in a six-week period.
But many local animal rescue advocates say that they don’t know of any rescue in Maricopa that could find homes for that many small animals so quickly.
Kelly Paolisso, who works with a small animal rescue in San Diego, says small animals like bunnies and hamsters are really hard to find homes for, and she couldn't find a single rescue in Arizona who knew anything about the animals.
“So they claim that this private rescue who has had no publicity; they have no social media; they have done no advertising, but they’re wealthy, well-connected people have adopted out 245, 250 — that number changes as well — small animals in a period of two weeks,” Paolisso says.
San Diego Humane Society CEO Gary Weitzman said on Tuesday that he doesn't know who the anonymous rescue is and that the transfer raises a lot of questions.
“Just today I was in contact with our partners at the Humane Society Southern Arizona to ask for an accounting of every single one of the animals that went to their facility and that went to rescue,” he said.
Weitzman says the Humane Society of Southern Arizona has already shared some photos of the animals they say were adopted out with their new families and that he expects documentation on all the animals to be forthcoming.
But while the Southern Arizona Humane Society has a spreadsheet of the animals they say were adopted out by the anonymous rescue, CEO Farley says the rescue is refusing to provide any documentation on the animals being adopted by their forever families.
Farley says the rescue is seeing threats against them online, despite no one knowing who they are, and that is why they are refusing to provide documentation on the animals, other than about a dozen photos of some of the animals, including two rabbits and a guinea pig being held by children.
But animal advocates and the San Diego Humane Society are asking for a paper trail documenting each adoption. And Farley couldn’t say where these threats were happening or give any other details.
The Humane Societies refusing to release any information on the safety and well-being of these animals, including the name of the rescue who took all 318 animals, is very concerning, says Kelly Ames, executive director of Tranquility Trail Animal Sanctuary in Scottsdale, a large animal rescue who specialize in rescuing and finding homes for rabbits.
“Any rescue that takes in that many animals at one time needs fosters, supplies, donations, vet assistance, etc,” Ames said.
The 68 animals that the Humane Society says weren’t adopted out by the anonymous rescue were returned to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
The group of Arizona animal rescue advocates offering a $1,500 reward says to email 318Missing@gmail.com with information that could lead to the whereabouts of the animals.