The Humane Society of Southern Arizona board of directors has suspended its chief executive officer and chief operating officer pending an investigation into the welfare of 318 small animals that were transferred into its care.

On August 7, the San Diego Humane Society shipped more than 300 small pets, including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and rats, to Tucson to help San Diego alleviate overcrowding in its own shelters.

Soon after receiving the animals, the HSSA moved them to a private group in Maricopa County facilitated by HSSA, according to the news release.

The board of directors started monitoring the situation, gathering information and conducting initial research, following concerns from local animal activists and members of the Tucson community, the news release said.

The investigation, the release said, included finding out why the HSSA became involved, why the animals were sent to this specific group in Maricopa County and the status of the animals’ safety.

The private group told the board 254 of the animals were placed in adoptive homes, and the news release said the board has no evidence to prove otherwise, but it continues to work with the group to confirm the well-being of the animals.

“As people who care deeply about animals, we understand well the significant interest in ensuring the animals are OK,” the news release said.

The release added, “While this private group does not maintain adoption records in the manner that a large organization like HSSA does, we are looking for all the information available, formal or not.”

The news release reiterated that the board currently has no evidence that any animal was harmed. The 63 animals that had not yet been adopted out, according to the news release, were returned to the HSSA, arriving in good health and in clean habitats.

Twenty-four of those animals were transported back to California. All but three of the remaining animals have been adopted out by the HSSA, the news release said.

The board has retained an independent third-party investigator to look into the situation, the news release said. The board suspended the HSSA’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Farley and Chief Operating Officer Christian Gonzalez, on Friday, pending the results of the investigation, the news release said.

The board invites anyone with information about the animals to email

“The board will do everything in its power to ensure HSSAs mission and function always was and continues to be to save the lives of animals entrusted to our organization,” the news release said.