By Dean Close, Editor

District Court Judge Patrick Grady has issued his ruling in the well-publicized Vinton animal case, ordering most of the more than 700 animals seized from the home of Barbara Galkowski to remain in the official custody of Benton County, and under the care of two animal shelters.

In the ruling filed today, Judge Grady wrote, “The Court will allow the Galkowskis to retrieve no more than a total of ten rabbits and/or guinea pigs by February 16, 2018, from where they are housed. They will need to reimburse the shelters for their expenses for these animals prior to retrieving them. They may also claim their one turtle and three lizards.”

The rest of the animals will remain in the care of Benton County. The two shelters, the Cedar Valley Humane Society, and Wildthunder Wildlife Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, have until Feb. 18 to sell animals that can be sold. The ruling orders those not sold by Feb. 18 to be “destroyed as provided in Iowa Code §717B.4 (4).”

However, Preston Moore of the Humane Society, says, “We have no plans to euthanize these animals. We think we will be able to find homes for them.”

Tracy Belle of Wildthunder echoed Moore’s words, saying she would fight any order to destroy the animals.

The judge has given the county until April 1 to compile a total cost of removing and caring for the animals, and submit to the court. It also allows the sale of the animals in groups of no more than 10 at one time.

“This Court has no trouble concluding that the seized animals found at the Galkowski residence were neglected because, on the whole, they were not provided sufficient food or water,” Judge Grady wrote.

See the complete ruling here:  06061__CVCV009554_OROT_163860

The judge also referred to testimony concerning the mess and odors witnesses mentioned during the hearing.

“The evidence is overwhelming that the water in the bird cages was fetid due to the bird droppings, that the water provided to the guinea pigs and rabbits was ruined by feces and there
was not nearly enough food for the animals to survive. The fact that, due to the numbers, the Galkowskis were unable to provide proper feeding or watering containers or properly heated
premises to keep the water from freezing underscores Barbara’s admission that she was overwhelmed by the situation,” Grady wrote. “Moreover, the filth and stench in the home belies her claim that she and the children were going to be able to adequately clean the premises that day when little had been done by 11:00 a.m. when authorities arrived and the human living area itself appeared to be in shambles.”

While acknowledging Galkowski’s good intentions, Grady concluded: “While it may be true that Barbara and her family were motivated by the best of intentions, the statute only requires that the Court finds that the animals were neglected and they were in her care. At best, she took on a responsibility she could not shoulder and the duties placed upon Benton County and this Court became clear. This Court finds that the animals seized from the Galkowskis were neglected within the meaning of Iowa Code §717B.3.”

Benton County Attorney David Thompson said, “This case resulted in the removal of approximately 700 neglected animals from the Galkowsi residence in Vinton Iowa.  The animals in question now total over 800. Benton County would like to thank the efforts of the Vinton Police Department, the Cedar Valley Humane Society, Wild Thunder Rescue,  Dr. Leigh Ennen, and countless volunteers who made this large scale rescue a tremendous success.  The Court’s ruling identified up to 14 animals that the Galkowki’s may reclaim.  The County will now move forward on providing detailed invoices for the cost of seizing, caring for, and preserving of the animals in question.”