updated 1/22/2009 3:21:57 PM ET 2009-01-22T20:21:57

A man who abandoned 280 white rats found dead and dying in crowded carriers was ordered to pay $1,000 restitution and perform 50 hours of community service.

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Toby Duffany pleaded no contest Wednesday to a single count of animal abandonment.

Authorities say the 22-year-old Duffany left the rats crammed into aquariums and cages by the side of a road in Foster last month. By the time they were discovered on Dec. 30, the animals had been there several days, 72 were dead and the survivors had resorted to cannibalism.

The living rats were euthanized by the state Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Duffany’s mother had started with one or two pet rats that multiplied quickly, said David Holden, inspector for the group.

Duffany said in court he got rid of the rats because he and his fiancee just had a baby. The couple share a small house with his mother. He said that at his mother’s request, he tried without success to get various pet stores to take the rats before abandoning them.

Veterinarian E.J. Finnocchio, the group’s president, said he was disappointed with the sentence. Duffany could have faced charges of malicious injury to animals.

“I’m waiting for the day to come when the message is sent that in Rhode Island, you will not get away with doing these things,” Finnocchio said.

By state law, the SPCA had to euthanize the survivors because of uncertainty about their health, and each had to be put down separately, he said. The SPCA put total cost of the killing and cremation at $5,000.

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