ARL Iowa Removes Hundreds of Cats From Central Iowa Property

posted on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 in News

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Madrid Cats(UPDATE 6/19/19): We need your help naming the Madrid cats! 186 cats are waiting for a name and for a donation of $15 you can choose their name.

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(UPDATE 6/17/19; 11 A.M.): ARL cat rescue efforts at the Madrid house have officially concluded. Final numbers are 186 living and 194 deceased, resulting in 380 total cats from this property. ARL rescuers concluded efforts only after several days of finding zero cats in the humane traps and no signs of cat footprints, signs of eating/drinking, and sightings on the trail cameras.

This was the ARL’s 3rd hoarding case in just 6 weeks, adding a total of 236 living – many, extremely sick – cats to the ARL’s already full shelter.

The ARL has had 3 full-time veterinarians and a team of medical care staff who have been working non-stop to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate these sick cats and kittens that have arrived from hoarding cases in recent weeks, in addition to the cats already in our care.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from the public. Everyone who has donated towards medical care, donated supplies, adopted, fostered, or volunteered have all made it possible to save these cats lives,” said Tom Colvin, CEO for the ARL, “Even though the active rescue has concluded, the need for the public’s help will continue for weeks and months to come until each cat is healthy enough for adoption.”

The ARL has hundreds of cats available for adoption right now and anticipate having some of the cats from these cases available for adoption as early as this week.

(UPDATE 6/10/19; 10 A.M.): We are now entering Day 7 of the Madrid Cat rescue and the number of cats rescued continues to climb. The latest report is 176 living cats (79 on the first day and 97 since) and 194 deceased cats, totaling 370 cats from this property. The original warrant expired yesterday, so the ARL is working with Polk County officials to extend the warrant to allow for the rescue of more cats this week. Trail cams were placed inside the buildings over the weekend and more cats have been spotted on camera inside the house and outbuildings, so ARL officials will continue to humanely trap these and any other remaining cats.

“We knew on Day 1 with the amount of debris and with HUNDREDS of cats on the property that this was going to have to be a multi-day rescue,” said Tom Colvin, CEO for the ARL. “We continue to catch about a dozen more cats each day, but with so many new people on the property and countless hiding spots, the rescue continues for those who have been hiding.”

The ARL had an extremely successful adoption event this weekend. An average of 8 pets were adopted every hour, for a total of 112 pets, 82 of which were cats.

June, Madrid Kitty(UPDATE 6/8/19; 12 P.M.): The total number of living cats rescued from the property in Madrid, IA has now more than doubled from the numbers originally rescued on the first day. A total of 161 living cats and kittens have now been rescued from the property as of this morning, with ARL rescuers back on-site today to save more (original number was 79). The number of deceased cats and kittens recovered remains at 194, bring the total in this case to 355 living and deceased. ARL rescuers are now using motion-activated nature cameras inside the buildings to assess how many more cats are in need of rescue that may be hiding when rescuers are on-site.

The ARL’s Name your Price adoption event kicked off today with a line of people waiting before doors opened to adopt a new pet. The event continues through Sunday at all ARL locations.

Pictured: 3-week-old June. When she was found in a box at the rescue site, her eyes were crusted shut and she was full of fleas and very hungry. In just the last couple of days she has really bounced back and is eating well from a bottle and is very sassy and busy. She loves sleeping on her Snuggle Kitty, which has a heartbeat like that of a mama cat and is one of the many needed items on our Amazon Wish list. You can find our list of needed supplies here.

(UPDATE 6/7/19, 1:00 P.M.): The cat hoarder rescue in Madrid, IA is still on-going and there have now been 142 living cats rescued and 194 deceased cats recovered. The ARL team is currently building more emergency housing units for these cats as the numbers continue to increase.

The ARL is offering Name Your Price adoptions for all cats and dogs over 6 months this Saturday and Sunday at all locations to help make room for these and other animals that continue to arrive daily.

Madrid Cats(UPDATE 6/6/19, 11:30 A.M.): The ARL has rescued dozens more cats from the Madrid, IA, property since the initial rescue, bringing the total to 119 living cats rescued and 194 deceased cats recovered. The rescue is still very active. One of the female cats that was rescued on the first day is in the process of giving birth right now. Additional emergency housing is being constructed at the ARL to make room for the additional 40 cats that have been rescued since the first day, with more on the way.

This morning when rescuers were inside one of the outbuildings they heard faint meows and followed the sound to find 2 tiny kittens that were trapped inside a box, covered with heavy garbage. Both kittens eyes were matted shut and one had severe deformities. An additional deceased cat was found outside in a plastic tote, wrapped in a blanket.

“There are now nearly 1,300 cats and kittens in the ARL’s care and more on the way,” said Tom Colvin, CEO for the ARL.

“This continues to be a crisis-level operation for our organization so we greatly appreciate everyone who has reached out to help so far. We still need the public’s help now and are going to for weeks to come.”

(UPDATE 6/5/19, 12:10 P.M.): The ARL was able to rescue an additional 18 living cats from the property today, bringing the total to 97 living and 193 deceased (290 total) cats and kittens and rescue efforts to save more cats are still on-going. The ARL Emergency Medical Team is awaiting their arrival to begin triaging and treating these new additions.

(UPDATE, 6/5/19, 12:00 P.M. ): The Polk County Sheriff's Office has released the following press release and image of Dennis Carlson on June 5, 2019. Click here to download the PDF of the press release.

Dennis Carlson, Madrid Cats"On May 28, 2019 Polk County Deputies went to 12797 NW 158th Ave. for a civil matter. While at the property, a deputy observed an overwhelming number of cats in and out of the house. The deputy also observed the front door to the house open and could smell a strong odor of cat feces and urine. The deputy contacted an animal control officer to the address.

Animal Control officers, along with the Animal Rescue League – Iowa (ARL) personnel, arrived at the address. After an evaluation by the ARL vet it was determined that the cats were living in horrendous conditions.

On June 4, 2019 at 9:00 am the Polk County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at 12797 NW 158th Ave for an investigation into animal neglect. The ARL, Polk County Emergency Management, Des Moines Fire Department, Mobile Crisis, and Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) assisted in this incident.

At 4:05 pm, 65-year-old Dennis Carlson was arrested and charged with 5 counts of animal neglect and 3 counts of failure to dispose of a dead animal. The case number for this incident is 19-3828. This incident remains under investigation. No further information will be released at this time."

(ORIGINAL POST, 6/5/19): The Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) Mobile Response Team spent all day at a property in Madrid, IA, on Tuesday (06/04/19), removing HUNDREDS of living and deceased cats and kittens from multiple buildings at a personal residence. Cats are still being rescued today and there have already been nearly 100 living cats rescued and nearly 200 more cats recovered that were already deceased.

Cat Hoarding

When ARL rescuers arrived, the smell was overwhelming even from the street. Dozens of cats were pressed up against open windows, trying to get fresh air. Air quality levels inside the house were so toxic that ARL rescuers were required to wear respirators and protective suits and were only allowed in the house for 30 minutes at a time. Inside, multiple feet of feces and garbage covered every square inch of the home, including kitchen counters – and dead cats filled refrigerators and freezers, alongside the owner’s own food. Cat urine soaked the curtains that hung near the floor. Bags upon bags of cat feces were stacked in living areas.


Cat Hoarding

As rescuers continued to remove cats, our team rushed load after load of cats back to the ARL where our Emergency Medical Team awaited to immediately begin triaging and treating the cats and kittens that were most critical. Many of the kittens were just days old, the tiniest weighing only 4 ounces. We placed the youngest in incubators in our Kitten NICU to help them regulate their body heat, and we began bottle feeding the unweaned kittens until we could identify if any of the females would nurse. Almost all have fleas and upper respiratory infections, and many have broken teeth, skin infections, and other infected wounds. We won’t know what else they’re facing until lab results come back.

Bottle Babie

“This is by far the worst hoarding case the ARL has seen in more than a decade. It’s absolutely horrendous. I don’t even have the words to describe how bad this is.” said Tom Colvin, CEO at the ARL. “We were already over capacity prior to this rescue with more than 1,100 cats in our care, so we are going to need a lot of help from the public with this one.”


Cat Hoarding

This is the third cat hoarding case ARL officials have responded to already in 2019, all occurring in the past 6 weeks. In 2018, the ARL responded to only 1 hoarding case the entire year.

“This case illustrates how Iowa’s weak animal cruelty laws continue to fail both Iowa’s animal and human victims,” said Colvin. “No one, neither cat nor person, deserves to live in such toxic conditions. Iowans deserve better and have demanded their lawmakers do better. It’s time they not only listen, but act.”

The ARL lobbied Iowa lawmakers in the 2018 session to strengthen animal cruelty laws, including requiring mental health evaluations for offenders, like in cases such as this. The bill passed unanimously out of the Iowa House, but Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver refused to bring it to a floor vote before the session ended.

The ARL is seeking donations of cat and kitten food, KMR kitten formula, and newborn-sized blankets to help with this rescue, in addition to donations toward their medical care. Donations can be made here online or by mail/in-person at the ARL’s main location (5452 NE 22nd St, Des Moines, IA 50313).

The ARL would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the following agencies who were a part of this rescue effort: Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Animal Control, Emergency Management, Fire Department, Public Works, and Health Department, as well as Iowa Department of Human Services and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Are you ready and willing to help the ARL during this time of need? Here are some ways you can help TODAY.

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Donations: Monetary

Monetary donations will help care for the dozens of cats from this rescue that are now safe at the ARL, as well as hundreds of others waiting for homes. Donate

Donations: Supplies

We currently have over 1,100 cats in our care, so wet and dry cat/kitten food (no red dye, please), kitten supplies, and other supplies will help us care for all the cats.

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We currently have over 300 cats available for adoption, and getting them into foster homes would open up space in the shelter to house the additional cats from this rescue. If you can give a cat a break from the shelter for just 30 days, it would help a lot. Bonus points if you help find the cat a home while they're in your care! Fill out /webres/File/ARL_TLC_FosterApplication_0722.pdf >

Public Volunteer Shifts

We are seeking volunteers to help with tasks around the shelter such as cleaning, feeding and restocking to allow our staff to care for the large quantity of pets in our care. You do not need to go through volunteer orientation for these shifts; we'll teach you everything you need to know on the spot. Email Volunteer Coordinator:


If you've been thinking about adding a new pet to your family, there is no better time than NOW! All of our available pets can be seen online. If you are unable to adopt, please share this information on your social networks to help spread the word. View Available Pets >