Ames Animal Control and Shelter discovered about 100 living and dead exotic animals at an apartment on Tuesday in “one of the worst animal hoarding cases they had ever seen,” officials said.
The animals, which were all legal to own, included fish, geckos, anoles, chinchillas, parakeets, cockatiels, a rabbit, rats, a ball python, a European glass lizard, hamsters, a frog, and a water dragon.
The shelter is closed until Thursday while staff members process and care for the animals.
Animal control supervisor Ron Edwards said when he entered the apartment building, he could smell urine, feces, and the decay of dead animals. “We went into the apartment and it was immediately overwhelming,” he said.
Edwards said officials went from room to room in the unit and found 41 live animals and more than 60 dead, in various stages of decay.
“Multiple animals didn’t have access to food or water,” he said.
Edwards said some of the live animals were still sharing containers with ones that had died.
“There were five parakeets and two cockatiels in one cage, and they were alive, but in the bottom of that cage were three dead cockatiels that died quite a while ago,” he said.
Finding a veterinarian that will care for animals like snakes and lizards has been a challenge, Edwards said.
“Not all vets will see a lizard or a snake,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to find one that can care for these animals and that’s been quite a challenge for us. We want to make sure we are giving these guys the appropriate care, so we’ve been doing a lot of research ourselves. These aren’t animals we get in a lot.”
The shelter should reopen on Thursday, Edwards said. He said caring for all the animals properly will be a burden on staff and they are hoping to get donations through their Facebook page.
Edwards said all of the species found in the apartment are legal to own.
“Unfortunately you can pick them up at a pet store near you. There’s no qualifying factors to get one of these creatures that have very special needs. You can walk in with a credit card and just get one. Not everyone knows about their needs,” he said.
Edwards said that the situation is an ongoing investigation with the Ames Police Department. Police have made no arrests in connection with the case.
“Our first goal was to get the animals food, water, and heat for the reptiles,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t going to lose any more.”