BLUE EARTH - In March, Winnebago police arrested a man, then entered his home to search for more evidence. What they found was like something from an episode of an animal hoarding TV show.
"One officer said 'The stench was so bad, I threw up twice,'" said Stacy Thompson, president of Faribault County Humane Society.
"Rotted food, death and feces, just disgusting: that's what the animals smelled like," Thompson said. "My husband and I fostered the dog. We had to bathe her incessantly to get the smell off."
Gin-Gin and Tim-Tim were rescued from a hoarding situation and nursed to health by the Faribault County Humane Society, which hopes to find them a permanent home.
The property owner signed over custody of all the animals.
"She brought the dog and four cats," Thompson said. "She said, 'I'll be back with the second load.' And we thought, 'Oh, my.'"
All total, 11 cats and a beagle were surrendered to the Humane Society, taxing an organization already stretched thin.
Faribault County Humane Society keeps its animals in a small concrete-block shed owned by the city of Blue Earth near the wastewater treatment plant.
Though space was tight, the conditions are clean.
"Four cats in the big cage and four cats in a dog kennel," Thompson said. "Three in one cage and two in another. They were happy to be together."
While some of the animals were in fair condition, others had problems.
"Whole necks were one open wound; it was just nasty, the poor things," Thompson said. "All had upper respiratory infections and eye infections. Some were emaciated and some were chubby. No rhyme or reason to the condition."
There have been a couple of bright spots.
"The dog was adopted - in fairly short order," Thompson said.
"All the cats are really friendly and used litter pans. That's not usually how it works. Hoarders don't usually give individual attention," Thompson said.
Getting the animals healthy and adoptable was not easy.
"We poured a lot of money into these cats," Thompson said. "About a hundred bucks apiece, at least, between medicines, and spay and neuter."
All the cats are now at healthy weights and have been sterilized. Three still live at the shelter. Several are being fostered by individuals, and the Martin County Humane Society has agreed to take two. But they all need permanent homes.
The cats are listed on the website www.faribaultcounty.petfinder.com for those who want to consider adoption. They are also on Craig's List in the hopes of reaching more people, Thompson said.
The adoption application is on Petfinder.com. The process includes a criminal background check, two personal references and information about the veterinarian who will give future care.
Thompson said her organization strives to find good homes, but if the pairing isn't a good match, the Humane Society will take the animal back and give a refund.
"Most of our adoptions are from the metro area," she said. "Mostly because our adoption fees are so low."
The fee for cats is $50, which includes all shots and sterilization. The fee for sterilized dogs is $100; for unsterilized dogs, it's $125.
For those who love animals, but can't adopt, there are other ways to help, Thompson said. There's always a need for people to foster animals and socialize them. They also need scoopable litter, canned cat food, carriers and big kennels for transporting, food, and leashes and collars.
Thompson vows the Humane Society will continue to help animals.
"Our volunteers have always come through. We always make it work; never turn an animal away," she said.