Vinton home where animals were found. (KCRG photo)

One of Iowa’s largest-ever animal rescue operations was mounted Tuesday in Vinton, a town halfway between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids.

Workers and volunteers from multiple animal shelters removed between 500 and 1,000 creatures, alive and dead, from the home. Vinton’s building inspector and police entered the house to look for “dangerous animals.” Babs Galkowski, the homeowner, tells KCRG-TV it all came as a shock.

Galkowski says, “When I woke up, I guess there was a search warrant actually for me because I had ‘wild and dangerous animals’ in my house, which I do not.” The long list of animals removed includes: birds, rabbits, rats, mice, hedgehogs, chinchillas, turtles, fish, hundreds of guinea pigs, and a ball python.

Officers found hundreds of animals inside the house and in a detached garage. Galkowski says she’s justified in having that many animals and claims she was caring for them, though police say conditions were deplorable. “If they can’t handle them, why are they taking them?” Galkowski says. “We have newborn babies who are going to end up dying. We have pregnant moms. They’re going to abort or they’re gonna’ die.”

Police say four children were living in the house, ranging in age from five to 14 years old. The Iowa Department of Human Services is investigating the welfare of the children. No charges are filed. Officers found dead animals scattered through the residence in various states of decomposition or stored in a freezer. Galkowski says there’s a simple explanation — they’re food for other animals.

“We do have some bodies and those are from animals that have passed,” Galkowski says. “They’re in my freezer. I have animals in there that I go to the raptor project with that feed raptors up in Minnesota.” Volunteers from the Cedar Valley Humane Society, Friends of the Shelter, and Wild Thunder Animal Rescue removed animals all day — over at least eight hours. A veterinarian said many of the animals were malnourished, dehydrated and living in overcrowded conditions, heavily contaminated with excessive amounts of fecal matter. Preston Moore is director of the Cedar Valley Humane Society.

“It’s wrong,” Moore says. “It’s inhumane. The animals shouldn’t have been in the conditions that they were in. It’s just not right.” The Cedar Valley Humane Society also says Galkowski was performing do-it-yourself surgeries to spay and neuter her animals. She denies that claim.

Reports say Galkowski owns a horse rescue operation called Rocket Ministries. The Cedar Valley Humane Society is also looking into the well-being of those horses. The Humane Society is asking for donations including money, animal cages, beds and food.

(Thanks to KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids)