Public Safety

Settlement reached over neglected animals seized from Vinton home

(Submitted photo) Photo submitted by Cedar Valley Humane Society of hoarding situation in Vinton.
(Submitted photo) Photo submitted by Cedar Valley Humane Society of hoarding situation in Vinton.

A legal settlement was reached last week over the 800 neglected and disease exposed animals seized from a Vinton home in January, which clears the way for the Cedar Valley Humane Society to adopt out the guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, hedge hogs, mice, birds and other critters, including 14 a judge previously ruled could stay with the owners.

The settlement means Benton County, the City of Vinton and Barbara and Marshall Galkowski relinquish all rights to the animals. The Galkowskis are also prohibited from attempting to adopt the animals, either directly or through a third party, according to the agreement.

In exchange, the animal shelter has waived all fees associated with the seizure, transport, boarding, and in-facility care of the animals to the county, city and the Galkowskis. Cedar Valley operates as a no-kill shelter and all the animals will be adopted — none will be euthanized.

“We are thankful to get this resolved as quickly as this,” Preston Moore, Cedar Valley Humane Society’s director of Development and Community Outreach, told The Gazette Monday. “We heard from people around the country, inquiring about them, who have a real passion about caring for these kinds of animals. We should have no problem getting them into good, high quality homes.”

Moore said there are over 800 animals but they quit counting. The majority are guinea pigs and rabbits that have been multiplying because many of the females were pregnant. However, there are also birds, hedge hogs, rats, mice, chinchillas and lizards. The majority are in good health now. Some had skin infections and respiratory issues and most when they arrived were dehydrated, malnourished and deficient in vitamin C.

The shelter did lose a few chickens, who had severe frostbite, in the first few days, Moore added. The 75 birds will be adopted first, possibly starting Tuesday, and then other male animals in the following days, Moore said. The shelter will keep the female animals longer because of possible pregnancies to avoid problems for new owners.

6th Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady previously ruled Feb. 8, that the Galkowskis could keep 14 animals and the remaining animals were to be sold to the public in groups of no more than 10.

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Cedar Valley was allowed to intervene after a Feb. 15 hearing and if the shelter couldn’t adopt the animals by Feb, 26, then Benton County had the discretion to have the remaining animals euthanized.

The animal shelter wanted to thank their attorneys, Carrie Thompson, Christine Conover and Mark Roberts of Simons, Perrine, Moyer and Bergman PLC, and attorneys Natalie Clouse and Jeremiah Junker, with Bradley and Riley PC, for representing the organization, along with the Vinton Police Department and the staff of Edgewood Animal Hospital — Dr. Leigh Ennen and Dr. Bruce Ennen, for their ongoing medical care.

They also had many volunteers and supporters who provided care, shelter officials said. Since the seizure of the animals, volunteers have spent more than 1,000 hours providing care to the animals from this case.

According to testimony from a January hearing, Moore, also a Vinton Animal Control agent, said he and Vinton police went to the Galkowski home with a warrant after a utility company employee reported “a number of animals and an illegal snake” on the premises.

He said investigators found “stacked cages and tote boxes, primarily in the basement, crowded with guinea pigs, rabbits, mice, chinchillas, birds, a degus and a large uncaged snake.”

Barbara Galkowski testified during the hearing that “she and her family were regularly engaged in raising and showing small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs.” But she conceded they had been “overwhelmed with rescues,” that she had been ill and that her four home-schooled children had gotten behind in caring for the animals.

Anyone interested in adopting the animals can call (319)362-6288 or stop by the Cedar Valley Humane Society at 7411 Mt. Vernon Road SE in Cedar Rapids.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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