San Diego Humane Society

San Diego Humane Society exploring legal options regarding pets sent to Arizona

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona sent documents Friday to NBC 7 indicating where the animals went but questions remain.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Statements in this article originally attributed to San Diego president Gary Weitzman in this article were used in error. — Ed.

More than 300 small pets left the San Diego Humane Society in a truck on Aug. 7, headed for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Dozens of rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and mice were headed for new opportunities to get adopted.

For one month now, though, no one at the San Diego Humane Society knows exactly where all of the 300-plus small animals ended up. The situation came to light when people noticed that the animals had adoption profile posts up in San Diego but no corresponding posts in Arizona. Officials in Arizona said that the majority of the animals were adopted by a private outside organization, which has remained unnamed.

"We did not know that it was one single rescue partner when we did this transfer," San Diego Humane Society president Gary Weitzman told NBC 7 on Friday.

"We know that placing 250, not to mention 318 small pets, in such a short amount of time just doesn’t seem realistic," Weitzman added. "And that’s what sparked this entire inquiry that we launched."

Weitzman said that the San Diego Humane Society is exploring its legal options.

“So there really aren't any legal remedies that we can find, but we are talking to our legal counsel right now to determine what our next best steps are," Weitzman said. "Just to get in information. That's all we want. Just the information. “

On Friday, NBC 7 received a statement from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona addressing the situation.

There is no regulatory body for shelter transports that indicates recordkeeping requirements, so there is no standardization. All transports are different, and the documentation varies depending on the situation. There are many small rural shelters that keep no records at all, but they still do a good job of saving lives. Our job as shelters and rescues is to provide the animals what they need when they need it – rescue, shelter, food, water, medical care, and permanent placement in a loving home. This documentation shows us who went where. We then create more documentation for the animals in our care as we did when we transported the remaining unadopted animals back from the rescue into our care at HSSA.  The original transport on August 7  was simply us assisting in a transport from SDHS to a rescue, so what I provide you is the only documentation of that transport.

In another example, next week we will be assisting in transporting 50 large dogs from a hoarding situation in southeast Arizona. They will not all come to us, they will go to different rescues and shelters, with management from local law enforcement and animal control officers. We don’t yet know what to expect because hoarding cases are highly fluid situations. We will create documentation for the dogs we intake to HSSA, but we will not for the remaining dogs. That is up to local law enforcement.

Weitzman said the SDHS doesn't believe the animals have been used for nefarious purposes, but he wants to verify the outcome of the animals.

Later in the day on Friday, an official with the SDHS confirmed to NBC 7 that the shelter offered to take the animals back — even volunteering to drive to Arizona to pick them up. The official said the San Diego Humane Society has not yet received a response.

"Those are our kids. We have to know": NBC 7's Joe Little works on tracking down the animals sent from San Diego Humane Society to Arizona.

318 Animals to Arizona

“Our celebration of transporting these animals a few weeks ago changed a lot last week when we had more questions than answers about where the animals ended up,” Weitzman said earlier this week.

However, other rescue groups and animal lovers were up in arms on social media. They said they never saw any listings for the animals or advertisements for adoption. Tuesday afternoon, Weitzman said he wasn’t certain where all 318 animals were.

NBC 7's Audra Stafford is at the San Diego Humane Society where rodents, rabbits and other small animals are being taken to Arizona to reduce overcrowding.

“Those are our kids. We have to know exactly what happened to them, where they are, how they were housed,” he said while standing outside the San Diego Humane Society.

“This is ultimately a really good news story that we’re saving lives of animals that were at risk,” said Steve Farley, CEO of the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

Farley said this week that 250 of the 318 animals were adopted out through a private rescue that has worked with HSSA for a decade. The remaining 68 were taken to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona’s shelter in Tucson.

Farley added the private rescue wanted to remain anonymous because it didn’t want people to drop off animals at their location. He also said the unnamed rescue didn’t need the publicity.

“They’re family run, family funded. They don’t need to fundraise,” explained Farley. “I understand people want to know every detail, but at the same time, these folks, they don’t do this to fundraise.”

The thought of a private rescue raised red flags on social media and in San Diego. No one could identify a rescue that could handle 250 small pets, let alone get them all adopted in a matter of weeks.

Farley said he appreciated the passion from the animal lovers, but said some took it too far.

“Some people have gotten so carried away with it. The rescue has told us now they’ve seen threats online and they’re worried for their families at this point,” he said.

Weitzman said on Tuesday that he still wanted answers.

“We’ve asked to speak with that rescue and we’re waiting for an OK to do that,” he told NBC 7. “I have to say that I am optimistic right now that we will get it. We have a good relationship with their director.”

Ultimately, Weitzman wanted assurances the 318 animals are OK.

“I feel like they are. I just want proof of that and we can’t rest until we have it," he said.

“We’re going to have a call with folks running the rescue soon and ask them if it’s possible to just have the conversation with Dr. Weitzman,” agreed Farley.

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