SAN DIEGO Hollywood mogul and co-creator of The Simpsons, Sam Simon, has bought a chinchilla farm in Southern California as part of a drive by animal rights activists to close the breeding facility.
In what all parties described as a "win-win" deal, 90-year-old owner Lurlie Adams was able to offload the farm she did not want any more to Simon for $50,000. And the 425 chinchillas were moved to much larger cages while awaiting adoption.
The San Diego Humane Society also received a $100,000 donation from Simon to care for the furry animals, which will be offered to new homes at a cost of $25 each.
Activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which helped broker Tuesday's sale behind the scenes, hailed the closure of one of California's largest breeders of chinchillas.
PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange said Adams, who had been trying to sell the farm for three years, signed a contract saying the land will never again be used to rear the animals.
"This is your last day of abuse," Simon, 59, told the animals as he walked somewhat unsteadily through the facility's cramped rows of mesh-wire cages on Tuesday, accompanied by a nurse. "This is your first day of freedom."
Adams and her husband opened the Valley View Ranch in Vista, about 25 miles (40 km) north of San Diego, in 1966 after answering an ad that said they could be millionaires if they raised chinchillas.
She said she was unaware PETA were involved until the sale went through. "I didn't find out until today ... that they're shutting it down and adopting the animals out," she said on Tuesday.
Simon, whose portfolio also includes Emmy awards for his work on Taxi, Cheers, The Garry Shandling Show and a half dozen other projects, was diagnosed with metastasized colorectal cancer in 2012. He has long been active in philanthropy and is particularly keen on causes that involve children and animals.
In June he rescued Sunder, an Indian elephant that had been shackled in a temple in India, beaten and starved. Before that, he paid for the rescue and relocation of bears in the U.S. state of Georgia.
"I have a desire to help animals," Simon told Reuters at the farm. "The question of whether it makes financial sense, it's my money and I get to do what I want with it. It's an expensive hobby I picked up at the end of my life."
The chinchillas were taken to the Oceanside and San Diego humane society branches to be readied for adoption.
(Reporting by Marty Graham; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mohammad Zargham)