The Ottumwa Courier

February 24, 2014

Animal adoptions begin

Courier staff writer


Courier staff writer

OTTUMWA — A surprised smile spread from rescuer to rescuer.

“When we arrived back here Saturday morning, one of the rabbits had had a batch of new baby bunnies,” said Stephanie Filer, fundraising director for the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

They needed a smile after their stressful Friday. The Des Moines professionals spent the day in Drakesville, at “one of the worst” animal-in-danger situations they had seen.

“And some of them had been in rescues like [the aftermath] of Hurricane Katrina, so for them to say it’s one of the worst, you know it’s pretty bad,” Filer said.

The ARL of Iowa took around 300 animals back to their multi-unit rescue center. They left behind the 50 animals that were already dead when authorities executed a search warrant.

“When we have neglected animals in with dead animals, that makes it worse for me,” said Josh Colvin, the ARL of Iowa operations manager. “It shows continuing [stages] of neglect. It shows me this was a long time developing.”

Though they’re “not happy” with the way the animals were treated, it’s not Colvin’s place to condemn the homeowner.

“We don’t know the whole story [because] we’re focused on the animal part, helping the animals,” he said. “We do have the resources to house them, and a full medical staff. We’re going to be able to get them healthy and get them adopted. And that’s good news.”

They took the bulk of the goats, lambs, sheep, turkeys, chickens, mice, rabbits, pigs, sugar gliders, skunks, hamsters, rats and “56 hissing cockroaches,” beetle-like insects that makes a hissing noise when you pet them.

The Heartland Humane Society sent a truck and two workers at the request of the Ottumwa Police Department. They’ve had mixed good and bad news, too.

“Our answering machine is filling up with people looking for their dog,” said Stan McHawes, shelter director for Heartland Humane Society.

What appears to have happened, said the director, is that there has been a recent string of dog thefts: Dogs disappearing from yards. When people heard about the hoarding situation, some families thought whoever had been collecting animals might have had their pet. Call after call has come into Ottumwa asking what kind of dog they’d rescued.

The description is for a medium sized (about 40 pounds) mixed breed dog, perhaps some kind of terrier, with a reddish brown coloring. The Wapello County group rescued two cats, too.

As for the good news, Heartland helped in another way, too: The live, adult goat (nicknamed “Frank” by law enforcement) came back to Ottumwa with the Heartland Humane Society. A journalist at the scene in Drakesville Friday said the big goat seemed thrilled to get food and to be outside. He has a new home.

“A farmer took Frank, two goat kids and two lambs,” said McHawes.

Though the agency was closed as usual for a couple days, they are now ready to adopt the animals out to loving homes.

The Des Moines rescue group was open on Saturday, when 40 animals were adopted. By presstime Monday, that number was 58. If you’re looking to adopt, said Filer, a few of the animals are on being listed on the Internet. But contacting the ARL with what you’d like is probably the easiest way to find something.

Colvin said enthusiasts of specific species have been adopting animals. One took several of the chickens. Be aware, he agreed, that these are not animals meant to be food.

“These are pets,” he said. “And we check everybody we adopt to.”

The public has been asking how to help.

“It’s so unique, with a ton of different types of animals, we’ve been asking for financial support,” said Filer. “In the past, we’ve had some situations where we can ask for specific items, like aquariums. This time, we’ve got to go out and get supplies for 30 species of animal.”

There’s also medical expenses for the critters and the additional professional staff the ARL of Iowa had to bring in to handle a sudden influx of 300 animals.

The Courier asked Heartland Humane Society if Wapello and Davis county area residents should send the Ottumwa shelter a check instead of sending one to Des Moines.

“At this point,” said McHawes at Heartland Humane, “I think they could probably use the money more than we can.”

Contact the Animal Rescue League of Iowa in Des Moines through

Iowa reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark