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HUNDREDS of rats available

A few hundred rats (number seems to vary) were taken from a home in Las Cruces today. They're currently at the humane society, where the conditions are incredibly harsh. The facility does not have the resources to handle such a large number of rats. In fact, they're basically planning to euthanize them very soon (this weekend, from what I've heard). From this thread, it seems they're being kept in two rabbit hatches (I'm imagining they were dumped in there as a huge rat pile, running around on each other), not even separated by sex. At least one person at the humane society is trying to put off the killing (I guess it was initially planned to just kill them right away) for a bit of time, while some rescue attempts were made. It's a few days. If you've ever thought about getting a pet rat, now would be a great time.

Sun-News article: http://www.lcsun-news.com/ci_15126259?source=rss_emailed

LAS CRUCES - Hundreds of large, feral rats - some sickly, some with evidence of fighting - are being removed from a Las Cruces home by city animal control.

"They're probably as big as a 4-to-5-month kitten," said shelter director Beth Vesco-Mock. "They're much larger than I had anticipated."

Debbie Martin, 55, a renter in the 4800 block of Camino dos Vidas, on the East Mesa, was criminally cited for excessive waste, improper care and maintenance of animals and dead animal removal. The three misdemeanors each carry a maximum fine of $500 or 90 days in jail.

Two skinny dogs and about 170 rats had been taken to the shelter by mid-day, with at least that many still hiding in the home, according to city animal control officer Ernest Jimenez. Officers also found the fur and skeleton remains of two dead dogs that were presumed to have been eaten by the rats, he said.

Martin did not appear to be homebound, Jimenez said.

She "obviously let it get out of control," Vesco-Mock said. "They had free reign of the home and she was just throwing food out for them ... there's evidence that they had been fighting with each other."

The once-domesticated rats, some suffering from respiratory infections, are being kept in hutches in a detached building from the main shelter and will be injected with a lethal solution starting today, Vesco-Mock said.

"It is a horrible situation," she said. "Rats have feelings and rats have pain receptors. It's a mammal, so they have all the same feelings and sensations. It's a life, any way you look at it, but we obviously can not keep these indefinitely."

The city learned about the problem when Martin called for an ambulance Monday and emergency personnel had to extract her through a window. "I have no idea what I was getting into," said Jimenez, who'd never handled a rat-hoarding case in his 14 years in animal control. "Never, and I hope to never see it again."

Inside the house, boxes piled high left nothing but a small
The interior of a home on the East Mesa where hundred of rats roamed freely is seen Thursday. (Norm Dettlaff/Sun-News)
pathway between rooms, with rat feces "wall to wall," Jimenez said.

"The smell was overwhelming," said Jimenez, who did not see any human food in the home. "She did have some rat food, but they've got access to everything. They're eating cardboard, paper, stuffing out of the couches, I mean everything ... you could see little bite marks on all the (bed) coverings."

A single breeding pair of rats could have produced that many offspring in a matter of months, Jimenez said. Only three of the rats escaped during the animal control operation - one was hit by a car, one ran into a neighbor's house, where a trap was set for it, and another ran loose.

"The public needs to be aware of some of the early signs of hoarding, animal hoarding, and if they suspect it, give us a call so that we can address it as early as possible," Jimenez said, "so it doesn't get to this point."

Anyone who is interested in taking one or two of the rats - as pets or for reptile food - is asked to call the shelter at (575) 382-0018 or visit at 3551 Bataan Memorial West.

Ashley Meeks can be reached at (575) 541-5462