No one knew how the situation would unfold when Fayette County deputies and animal control officers arrived to search a home as part of an investigation Wednesday morning.
Vania Warns had a control rod ready when a three-legged mastiff mix appeared.
"A lot of times dogs don't like people in uniforms," said Warns, a medical technician and officer with Black Hawk Animal Control in Waterloo.
She has been doing her job long enough, though, that the animal's body language suggested this dog was no threat. Warns used a leash to load the mastiff into her van.
"At that point, I didn't know if we were going to follow through with neglect charges," she said.
Authorities seized three cats and 22 dogs at 6238 40th St. in rural Aurora. Their owner, Susan Purcell-Varnell, 56, faces 22 counts of animal neglect and was cited for failure to dispose of carcasses and violations of dealer and commercial breeder's license.
The dogs are a variety of Chihuahuas, a mastiff, a pit bull, terrier mixes and German shepherds. The Animal Rescue League in Des Moines took 12 dogs, and the Cedar Bend Humane Society in Waterloo is holding 10 and the cats.
The dead animals were sent to Iowa State University for autopsies.
Josh Colvin, cruelty intervention coordinator with the Animal Rescue League, said the animals lacked food and water. A couple of the animals had leg injuries, he added, and others may have parvo, a contagious viral infection.
Sanitation also was an issue. Dogs defecated in a room, creating high levels of ammonia, according to Warns..." More