The Ottumwa Courier

February 21, 2014

Animals seized amid carcasses

Courier staff writer

---- — DRAKESVILLE — Dozens of dead animals were laid out in neat rows on the lawn of a house swarming with police and animal rescue personnel Friday.

"As far as dead animals, this is the worst I've ever seen," said Officer Jeff Williams, an Ottumwa Police Department officer assisting at the property.

In what may be among the largest hoarding cases investigated in Iowa, Davis County Sheriff deputies and others executed a search warrant at 202 N. Washington St. in Drakesville Friday morning, the Roger Blew residence.

Chief Deputy Josh Odell said there's no official count of live and dead animals yet, but at press time, he estimated around 200. An animal rescuer said more than 200 animals, approaching 300.

Part of the problem in counting was finding all of the creatures; a police officer using an iron rod as an ice pick was chipping away at ice on the lawn, which had frozen carcasses locked within it.

Lacey Smith, assistant manager of Ottumwa's Heartland Humane Society, was part of the team rescuing animals. She and the shelter manager had only found a dog, a kitten and a cat. The rest of the animals varied from traditional farm animals to more exotic pets.

At some animal neglect scenes, it's the smell that causes the most complaints among rescuers and neighbors. Friday on North Washington Street, it was the sounds that drew comments: The bleating of a sheep, the clucking of chickens and the call of a rooster all came from the street. A steady stream of rescuers came out of the house with cage after cage of creatures.

The sugar gliders, small enough to fit in the palm of a child's hand, made screaming noises as they were rescued from the house. In a kennel, a ferret shared space with a live skunk.

So far, the media saw or was told about one Guinea fowl, a dog, about a dozen mice, two sugar gliders, a rooster, a baby lamb, one ferret, two skunks, a full-grown turkey, multiple pot-bellied pigs, two turtles, a raccoon, goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, guinea pigs, a few birds and one kitten.

"I don't know why anybody would want to have this many animals," said Josh Colvin, operations director for the Animal Rescue league of Iowa. "I'm looking at this as a hoarding situation."

He said inside the house, it appeared someone was a collector of various "things." He got the sense that the animals were just another aspect of the collecting.

"This didn't develop overnight," Colvin said as an officer behind him carried a dead baby lamb from the house to the lawn.

One of the humane society representatives said the odor in the house was awful. There were living animals laying on top of dead animals just to have room to lay down.

"It was bad," Smith said. "Really bad."

— News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark