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Over 100 exotic animals found in Ames hoarding case

More than 100 animals were found Tuesday night in an apartment in Ames. Most of them were reptiles such as geckos, anoles, snakes, frogs and a water dragon. The 41 surviving animals were brought to the Ames Animal Shelter. (Photo courtesy of Ames Animal Shelter)
More than 100 animals were found Tuesday night in an apartment in Ames. Most of them were reptiles such as geckos, anoles, snakes, frogs and a water dragon. The 41 surviving animals were brought to the Ames Animal Shelter. (Photo courtesy of Ames Animal Shelter)

AMES — Ames Animal Control officials are investigating an animal hoarding case after more than 100 animals, ranging from geckos to cockatiels, were found in an apartment Tuesday night.

Only 41 of the animals were alive and were transported to the Ames Animal Shelter, said Ron Edwards, director of the animal shelter and Ames Animal Control.

The animals were discovered after authorities responded to a call of a terrible smell coming from an apartment. The location of the apartment was not identified because of the ongoing investigation, Edwards said. No charges had been filed as of Wednesday afternoon.

The total number of animals wasn’t immediately known, because in some situations, animal control officers were counting singular body parts such as tails, skeletons, legs or arms from deceased animals that were in the same cages as live ones, Edwards said.

He said that because of the lack of food and water provided to each animal, they resorted to eating the carcasses. The birds, for example, at one time had eight living creatures in a cage, but when animal control found them, three of the birds were dead and had decomposed at the bottom of the cage.

“I’ve been doing animal control for 34 years, and this is one of the worst that I’ve been to,” Edwards said. “(There were) deceased animal carcasses everywhere, under dressers, under beds, in drawers ... you could barely breathe in the house.”

Some animals were found in a lunchbox-like cage, underneath the bathroom sink, where there was no light, food or water, Edwards said.

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When he and his team were walking toward the apartment unit, the closer they got the stronger the smell became, Edwards said. When the door opened, the “smell of ammonia, urine and feces was just almost unbearable,” he said.

The majority of the animals in the apartment were reptiles such as geckos, anoles, snakes, frogs and a water dragon. Others included several types of birds, fish and hamsters. Edwards described these types of animals as “exotic,” because most veterinarians specialize only in dogs and cats.

The case is creating a problem for the shelter because they’re having a difficult time finding someone to care for all 41 animals, some of which are struggling to survive, Edwards said.

“The reptiles are in the most danger because they were the most neglected,” he said.

Because of the number of animals taken in by the shelter, it was closed to the public Wednesday but plans to reopen Thursday.

Edwards is encouraging people who want to help to visit the Ames Animal Shelter’s Facebook page.

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