DES MOINES, Iowa — Seventy-four cats were rescued from a basement in a duplex on Des Moines’ northwest side. The owner of the property contacted the Animal Rescue League after a strong stench started to permeate from the basement, but the owner of the cats would not give them up voluntarily.
“We had to involve the Des Moines Police Department who assisted in obtaining a search and seizure warrant, and then that search and seizure warrant has to be signed by a judge, and then executed at the home. That allows us access to go in and remove what we believe to be 40 to 50 cats ended up being 74, and there are still at least one more if not multiple still on the property,” said Joe Stafford director of animal service at ARL.
The ARL said the basement was crawling with cats, they were even inside the walls. Floors covered with bloody diarrhea and kittens just days old were found with their umbilical cords still attached.
The owner of the property did not want to be identified, but told WHO-TV that he let the man move into the basement temporarily since a friend told him he needed a place to move into. He says he was completely unaware that he owned any cats since he moved into the basement in the middle of the night.
It wasn’t until he confronted him over the phone that he admitted to only owning four cats.
“You can’t even breathe,” said the property owner. “I have to wear [a] mask to cover my face, my mouth,” said the property owner.
Unfortunately, not all the cats made it out of the situation alive.
“There was one deceased on the property and unfortunately that one was found within the walls,” said Stafford. “So it’s hard to say what happened. Three of the others had to be euthanized just because the medical condition had become so critical that the most humane thing he could do was to euthanize those animals.”
Animal hoarding is considered a mental health disorder and if left untreated, 100 percent of people relapse.
“We’re just looking at hoarding as an opportunity to have a bigger conversation about mental health, and all the elements necessary to actually put a stop to it,” said ARL of Iowa CEO Tom Colvin.
Currently House File 737, which was passed in the Iowa House of Representatives last year, is sitting in the Senate. While addressing many animal rights issues, it would also allow judges to order psychological evaluations for offenders related to hoarding.
“That cycle has to be broken. And those are the bigger conversations that need to happen on a state-wide basis departments, you know, other social services, all of those types of things need to come together and talk about this situation,” said Colvin.
Charges are currently pending for the owner of the cats until the investigation is complete.