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Rescued Goldfish In D.C. Pond Are Put Up For Adoption


Property developers find all sorts of things on the job - abandoned cars, secret rooms, hidden passageways. Earlier this month, Jeff Kozero found a 20-foot manmade pond at a property just outside Washington, D.C. Now, that wasn't too unusual, but the heron that kept stopping by was.

JEFF KOZERO: So, you know, we saw the heron, and I said, the heron has to be here eating something.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Goldfish - lots of them. And not large fancy koi, either - little goldfish like you'd keep in a small tank. Turns out the previous owner had introduced them into her pond 50 years ago. It was the home of generations of goldfish.

KOZERO: And that's when we said we just can't let these fish die.

CHRIS SCHINDLER: Yeah. So we received a phone call from the developer because I think they were obviously perplexed on, like, what to do.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Chris Schindler, vice president of field services at the Humane Rescue Alliance. They usually deal with dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, turtles, not goldfish spawned wild. They came up with a plan. As the sump pumps slowly drained the pond, workers waded in with handheld nets.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Got some in there.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: At least three.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Seems straightforward - right? - and kind of fun on a sunny spring morning. Scoop up a little fish, put them in a bucket, take them back to a tank at the shelter. Bang, splash - you're done. But...

SCHINDLER: There was so much debris in there that we had to sift through - you know, basically scoop up, you know, a bunch of water and the leaves and then dump those out and sift through them by hand to pull the fish out of the debris, essentially, like, one by one - you know, one by one, whatever you caught.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And they were hard to see, too, because most of the goldfish weren't even gold.

SCHINDLER: So there were only three that had any kind of, like, gold coloring. All the rest of them were, like, a black with kind of silver fins.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there were so many of them.

SCHINDLER: We didn't know at the time there were 143, either. (Laughter) I don't think any of us thought that there were that many.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It took two full days to make sure they rescued all the fish. Fortunately, there were extra tanks. Then there they were, in the shelter and on the shelter's website under adopt small and exotic animals. Just below the thumbnail of Candy Pop the bunny, next to Yoda the turtle, there was a photo with the name multiple fish. Schindler says not just anyone can swing by and pick up a goldfish. No. They have to be screened first.

SCHINDLER: We make sure through our counseling sessions that they have all the equipment that they need to properly care for goldfish.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Local D.C. media got the word out. And within a week, Adam got adopted, and Brian got adopted. Luther, Glenn, Napoleon - yes. Shelter staff named each of the 143 goldfish - Ophelia Xena, Ziti, even a fish called Wanda. They all got adopted. Chris Schindler says this was a feel-good story for our not-so-great times.

SCHINDLER: I mean, fish are animals, too. And so certainly, you know, they should be treated with the same kindness as any other animal that we encounter. They are living creatures. And so I think we're excited that not only were we able to help them, but that so many people in our community wanted to help them, too.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that was, again, Chris Schindler of the Humane Rescue Alliance here in Washington, D.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.