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February 22, 2014

About 200 animals, dead and alive, hoarded

DRAKESVILLE, Iowa — Animal rescuers laid out dozens of dead animals into neat rows Friday, while a police officer chipped away at ice chunks containing frozen animal carcasses, in what authorities said may be one of the largest animal hoarding cases in the state.

Sheriff’s deputies and others executed a search warrant at the Drakesville, Iowa, home of Roger Blew on Friday and discovered an estimated 200 animals, both alive and dead – from cats and dogs to chickens, sheep, pigs, skunks and turtles.

"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.

Davis County Chief Deputy Josh Odell said there is no official count of animals yet, but he and others estimated around 200, possibly more.

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 animals locked within it.

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 marsupials similar to flying squirrels -- made screaming noises as they were rescued from the house. In a kennel, a ferret shared space with a live skunk.

Responders at the scene reported that the animals found also included a Guinea fowl, a dog, about a dozen mice, 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 other 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 lie down.

"It was bad," said Lacey Smith, assistant manager of Ottumwa's Heartland Humane Society. "Really bad."

Details for this story were reported by the Ottumwa Daily Courier in Ottumwa, Iowa.

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