Neighbors had reported a strong ammonia smell emanating from a Des Moines, Iowa, home, but police and animal rescue workers were not prepared for what they found inside on Wednesday.
Six inches of cat feces and waste covered the entire interior of the house, which contained dozens of cats and at least nine more that had died, reported WHO. Officers told the station that it was impossible to walk inside the home without stepping in waste and said it was one of the worst scenes they’d ever encountered.
“You can smell it out here,” neighbor Byron Barrett told KCCI. “You can smell it inside. It’s all over. The odor was immense; just smells like feces and ammonia.”
City crews bulldozed loads of trash out of the home, which has been condemned, on Friday, the station reported. The Animal Rescue League of Iowa removed 27 cats from the home on Wednesday and set traps for at least 10 more believed to be hiding in the home’s air ducts and walls. They also removed at least nine dead cats and kittens found inside the home.
Police could not get an accurate count of the number of dead animals, however, because they were “decomposed to the extent that they weren’t readily identifiable as cats,” Sgt. Paul Parizek, spokesman for the Des Moines Police Department, told The Des Moines Register
Charges are pending against the homeowner, who authorities declined to name, Parizek told the publication. City ordinances allow a total of six cats and dogs per household.
“Animal hoarding is a serious animal welfare concern because the animals – and the people involved – often suffer greatly,” Animal Rescue League Executive Director Tom Colvin said in a news release.
The league seeks donations of money, dry cat food and other supplies to help care for the flood of rescued cats.
Colvin told KCCI that he was grateful someone had reported the home to police. “If not, we could be looking at a lot more. A couple of years down the road, we could be talking 100 cats,” he said.