KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- More than 260 animals were rescued from a home at 40th and Wabash Monday afternoon. It is the largest animal hoarding case folks at KCMO Animal Control can remember.
Neighbors who live in the duplex next door thought the foul smell in their home was a dead animal under the house, never knowing it was coming from next door.
"I don't even know what to say because I can't believe like, we're really living next door to a zoo," said Michaela Moore, who was shocked at the discovery.
Just as shocked are the folks with KCMO Animal Control and KC Pet Project.
"Quite frankly we were stunned at what we saw," said John Bacalla, spokesman for KCMO Animal Control. "The house is full of lab rats and geckos and turtles and guinea pigs and rabbits."
"We have dealt with situations like this before," Tori Fugate with KC Pet Project said. "We've never had a case with this many small animals though."
Mikey Montero, who owns the animals, said it started with a turtle he has had since he was 12 and a rabbit he has had for four years. A few rats breeding turned into hundreds, others rescued from feeder tanks.
"I have anxiety and stuff so I have them for emotional support, and they really help me a lot," Montero said of the pets he considers friends. "Whenever I`m feeling down and depressed, I play with them or just think about them."
Bacalla said they hear all kinds of reasons for cases like this.
"Emotional support things just got out of control. They started with one, next thing I know I had 10, next thing I knew I had 50. So you hear this all the time and obviously you'd like to get these people the help they need because they are going to need some help," Bacalla said.
The Kansas City Fire Department hazmat team checked out the duplex, testing it for ammonia levels to determine if the building is habitable. Wearing masks and oxygen tanks to remove dozens of cages holding hundreds of animals.
"There is no room for anything else and just when you walk upstairs it makes your eyes water just the conditions that these animals and people are living in, and here it's just overwhelming. I don't really know how it's possible," Fugate said.
In KCMO, there is a law that you can own up to a maximum of four traditional animals like dogs and cats. The ordinance does not cover non-traditional animals like rats, turtles and rabbits.
The reason these were taken is because of the unsafe conditions inside the home. If Montero can clean up and prove his home is safe for him and the animals, he may be able to get 20 of them back.
In all, 217 rats, 16 rabbits, two geckos, two guinea pigs, six turtles/tortoises, nine hamsters, three gerbils and three mice were rescued.