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Deaths of two of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch giraffes sparks concern from animal rights group

January 13, 2010 |  7:15 am

During the heyday of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, the pop star's menagerie of animals included several giraffes.

But Jackson sold the giraffes to an Arizona animal center in the wake of his child molestation trial in 2005. And now there is concern over the deaths of two of the animals over the last few months. One died in November and the other last week.

The cause of the deaths is unclear. But the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals this week sent a letter to officials in Page, Ariz. -- where the wildlife center is located -- urging them to find a more suitable home for the remaining giraffes.

"Now, we're asking the city of Page to confiscate the two remaining giraffes and relocate them to a facility that can provide them with appropriate care before it's too late," PETA said in a statement on its website.

PETA said it had urged Jackson in 2008 to find new homes for the giraffes after hearing reports that they were living in poor conditions.

Freddie Hancock, the co-owner of the refuge, told TV station KSL that the giraffes were well cared for and that he is shocked by the deaths.

"We've had them for 3 1/2 years, and they are like our children," Hancock said. "We're just absolutely devastated by the death of these giraffes."

-- Shelby Grad

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