A Vinton, Iowa couple has landed in police custody after nearly 900 animals were found living in horrid conditions under their roof.
The Cedar Valley Humane Society workers and volunteers worked tirelessly as anywhere between 500-1,000 animals were evaluated — forcing the center to close temporarily at the influx of animals from homeowner Barbara Galkowski.
Authorities were initially sent to the home after receiving a nuisance complaint and a call about vicious animals and wound up rescuing sick and suffering rabbits, rats, mice, hedgehogs, chinchillas, turtles, fish, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils and a ball python.
According to The Courier, some animals that were alive had been stuck in cages with those that were long dead, and many that were found alive were in extremely poor health and in need of immediate care.
“Several dead animals were found scattered throughout the residence in various states of decomposition or stored in a freezer,” the department added in a news release.
The sickly animals were also removed by volunteers from the Humane Society, Friends of the Shelter, and the While Thunder Animal Rescue, who brought them safely to receive the care they needed.
Assessing the condition of the animals and their housing, a veterinarian “determined that many of them were malnourished, dehydrated and were living in overcrowded conditions that were heavily contaminated with excessive amounts of fecal matter.”
The damage seemed to be so extensive and the cost of care for these hundreds of animals so high that the Cedars Human Society posted to Facebook, calling for donations.
“We are on scene now and will be returning to the shelter this afternoon,” the shelter wrote in its post. “We cannot yet share photos as we will be cooperating with law enforcement to permanently take custody of these animals … but the situation is just terrible.”
“The smell … the empty or dirty food and water bowls … dead animals in cages with living ones,” they added. “Rotting food. Animals with ‘DIY surgery’ in progress. Hundreds (potentially thousands by the time everything is counted) of animals in a small, enclosed space.”
The couple’s four children, ages five to fourteen, are now staying with a family friend and are also part of the investigation because they lived in the home with the hundreds of animals.
And Galkowski remains adamant that the makeshift shelter was legitimate and that the subzero temperatures and seemingly unliveable conditions were a factor of her recently being sick. Otherwise, she argues, they are generally well-cared for.
“I do run a guinea pig rescue program. I just brought in over 200 guinea pigs, which is a lot of what they are freaking out about; me trying to juggle all these animals, trying to find them homes, and get a lot of them medical treatment,” Galkowski said as she shared photos of her kids showing off their rabbits and guinea pigs at national and local shows.
“My daughter with autism, they said she would never speak, she would never talk, she would never walk,” Galkowski said. “She started showing animals and she started talking to the judges. She walks. She is thriving in the world. Those are her kids.”
The investigation, however, remains ongoing as authorities admitted that no decision has been made as to whether criminal charges or civil penalties will be brought on the couple.
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