IOWA CITY — Iowa City Animal Services are seeking donations after hundreds of birds were seized from a rural Solon property.
Iowa City Animal Services Supervisor Liz Ford called it “one of the worst” hording situations she has seen in her career.
According to animal services and Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, on Dec. 9 the two agencies coordinated on a “large scale animal welfare investigation” at an abandoned farmstead two miles southeast of Solon after receiving a complaint. As a result of that investigation, 110 ducks and geese, 76 chickens and 49 pigeons were seized from the property and placed in foster homes.
Ford said the birds are being restored to health and will be evaluated for adoption, possibly as soon as Friday.
“They were weak,” Ford said of the birds. “The animals were not being cared for properly.”
Pulkrabek said authorities have had multiple interactions with Francis J. Prohaska, 70, of Iowa City, who was keeping the birds at the farmstead. Pulkrabek said Prohaska and his brother own the abandoned farmstead, but do not live there.
“He has, over time, bought multiple small sheds from farm sales and stuff,” Pulkrabek said. “And he’s acquired different types of birds. There were ducks, chickens, geese, pigeons. He doesn’t do a good job of taking care of that.”
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Pulkrabek said there are roughly 20 sheds on the property and the birds were contained in many of them. While the birds were being fed, they were not getting adequate water, Pulkrabek said.
“We went up there along with animal control and took his birds,” he said. “He did voluntarily relinquish control of all of them.”
Pulkrabek said there were carcasses and remnants of dead birds throughout the property, but it was unclear what those birds died from. He said Prohaska claimed that he acquired crates or kennels at livestock auctions that had dead birds in them.
“Whether that’s true or not, we can’t prove one way or another,” Pulkrabek said. “He doesn’t do a good job of cleaning out the kennels. He just sort of stacks them up.”
Pulkrabek said he didn’t know whether the birds were being used for food or simply living on the farm.
Pulkrabek said authorities are still making a decision about charges in the investigation.
Returning from checking on the ducks Tuesday, Ford said she was “excited” to see the birds recovering from the neglect.
“It’s amazing to see them bounce back with just some nutrition and water,” she said.
Ford said the ducks and geese have been domesticated through breeding and could not be released to the wild.
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Prhoaska was previously charged with animal neglect, a simple misdemeanor, for an incident that occurred in April 2016. Iowa City police said they were called to the North Dodge Hy-Vee on April 25 for a bad smell coming from a U-Haul van parked in the parking lot. When officers opened the van, they found 62 ducks inside, 19 of which had died.
Police said the ducks were dehydrated, undernourished and had no access to food or water inside the van. The ducks were seized by Iowa City Animal Control.
While Prohaska’s hording likely continued between the April 2016 incident and the animals being seized on Dec. 9, she said the law would make it difficult for authorities to go to his farm without probable cause to seize the animals.
“You have to have evidence,” she said. “If those things don’t fall into place, you can’t go onto someone’s property. I think sometimes it takes awhile.”
That makes it important for citizens to call and notify authorities if they believe an animal is being neglected.
Ford said they need donations to help care for the seized birds, including straw bales, non-medicated poultry food and farm supply gift cards, such as Thiesen’s Home Farm & Auto or Orscheln Farm and Home.
Anyone interested in adoptions can contact the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center at 319-356-5295.
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