Thousand Rat Rescue

As seen on A&E's Hoarders

A special thanks to the many people who joined our rescue to give a happy ending to almost 2,000 needy pet rats. We would like to send a special thanks to some of the groups and individuals that have made the rescue effort for over 1,000 rats from the hoarding case possible.

We would like to thank the Emergency Services team from The Humane Society of the United States, whose emergency services team provided immense support during the planning stages of the rescue, helped us secure the cages and equipment needed to set up the emergency rat shelter, set up the freight transport for the first intake of rats from the property, has helped support the medical needs of hundreds and hundreds of needy rats, and sent a crew of specialists to assist with the removal of the rats from the property. The Humane Society of the United States continues to help support us remotely even while they continue to save animals from other crisis situations.Thanks also to Troy Snell from the Lancaster Shelter in Los Angeles, who donated his time and assistance during the removal of the rats from the property with the rest of the team, and to Pam Whitfield who drove the freight truck carrying the rats from the hoarding property to the emergency shelter in San Jose.

Thanks to United Animal Nations, who sent a crew of volunteers to help set up cages at the emergency shelter. Not only did the team build hundreds of cages, help us set up a sick bay, maternity room, medical room, and organize supplies, but they worked hands on for the week they stayed with us to help care for the rats on a daily basis and make sure that the shelter was set up to run successfully once they departed to save animals in other situations. Their experience in setting up a safe haven for animals coming out of crisis situations helped us set up a one-of-a-kind shelter just for the rats.

Thanks to Petsmart Charities Emergency Relief program, which donated a huge amount of equipment including over 100 cages for rats, a huge amount of Carefresh bedding, food bowls, water bottles, chew sticks, rat hammocks and everything we needed to build a safe environment for the rats from this hoarding case. Visit target="_blank">Petsmart Charities to learn more about the services they provide to animals in critical need.

Thanks to the entire crew at Andy's Pet Shop, who provided the space for the Emergency Rat Shelter to operate. Not only has Andy's given the rats a safe place to stay, but their entire staff have devoted a huge amount of time to helping us care for the rats, train our volunteer crew, supervise the shelter operations and help rat adopters connect with the needy rats waiting for homes. For years before this rescue effort, Andy's also helped place hundreds of animals from rescues and sheltrs, including ours, through their one-of-a-kind adoption center serving all species of animals who needed help.

Thanks to Dr. Carolynn Harvey of the Chabot Veterinary Clinic in Hayward, who has donated an enormous amount of time to help set up the medical protocol for the rats arriving at the shelter, and who continues to supervise the medical care for the injured and sick rats who arrived at the shelter. With Dr. Harvey's help, hundreds of sick and injured rats have made a full recovery and will have a chance at a long and happy life.

Thanks to the A&E Network, who provided funding to have the concrete flooring sealed at Andy's Pet Shop before we moved in with our cages and equipment so that the rat shelter could be kept clean and sanitary, which will in turn enable Andy's Pet Shop to open up their Adoption Center and continue to help save the lives of hundreds of animals from Bay Area Shelters and Rescues who find homes with their help.

Thanks to Dr. Lynn McEwan of the Palmdale Veterinary Hospital, who was on site at the hoarding location for two days to assist with medical care and triage support while the bulk of the rats were removed from the hoarding property. During the two long days of the initial rat removal, Dr. McEwan helped us stabilize the rats who would be making a trip, and provided a humane euthanasia for the animals suffering on the property who were beyond saving. His calm deameanor and compassion helped our team get through a very difficult time.

Thanks to, an online store specializing in outdoor decor and accents who assisted with the rescue by providing greenhouse heaters that are used to keep special areas of the rat shelter warmer and more comfortable for our medical patients and the maternity ward. The Outdora Showroom in Sonoma also supplied computer equipment and video equipment to enable our team to make the first scouting trip to the hoarding location to help us get a better idea of how to best remove the rats from the home.

Thanks to Drusilla of The Illustrated Rat, who offered one of her amazing rat paintings up for auction and donated the profit to help the rats from the hoarding case. You can see more of her wonderful rat images online by visiting The Illustrated Rat.

Thanks to the Rats Rule! Forum on Goosemoose, whose many wonderful members have come to volunteer at the shelter, have sent in letters of support, have sent donations of rat supplies, and who always provide a wonderful resource and community for rat lovers everywhere.

Thanks to Noni's Hammocks, who has generously offered to fund a project to make a box of 12 hammocks for the shelter rats for $12! Noni's Hammocks makes hammocks for rats at rescue groups for a very low cost, a wonderful way of enriching the habitats much appreciated by the rats!

Thanks to Photographer Ari, who has volunteered time to take some amazing pictures of the rats at the shelter that will be made into rat calendars for sale to help benefit all of the rescue rats. You can check out some of Ari's great rat pictures on Redbubble.

We would also like to thank all of the people who donated money, rat food, toys, cages and their time at the rat shelter in San Jose. There are so many people who came forward to assist with this case, and we could have never done it without you!

Category: Thousand Rat Rescue

The Emergency Shelter at Andy's Pet Shop in San Jose

The Emergency Rat Shelter is located at Andy's Pet Shop at 51 Notre Dame Avenue in San Jose. Andy's Pet Shop recently relocated from their old location on The Alameda in San Jose after it was purchased from the former owners by Lissa and Eric Shoen, who decided to discontinue selling live animals and instead convert the space into the Adoption Center at Andy's Pet Shop, a center where rescue groups and shelters could feature their adoptable animals.

The emergency shelter at Andy's Pet Shop includes several areas, including the main rat housing area, a dedicated medical room, an intake hall, a medical ward and a maternity ward. The space currently holds approximately 400 cages housing over 1,000 rats who are receiving care and socialization while they wait for adoption.

Adoptions will open at Andy's Pet Shop on December 5th, when the youngest females who could not have gotten pregnant and many of the male rats will be made available for adoption to the public. Andy's will remain open for adoptions for the rats seven days a week, and will be the central location for rats to be picked up and transported to rescues and adopters across the US.

Once the rats have been adopted out, the Adoption Center at Andy's Pet Shop will be re-opening and will once again provide comfortable housing for dozens of adoptable animals of ALL species rescued from shelters in the Bay Area.

Category: Thousand Rat Rescue

The Rescue of the Rats


Volunteers from North Star Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States prepare transport bins to pick up the rats

Volunteers from North Star Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States prepare transport bins to pick up the rats

How does one round up 1,000 loose pet rats to save in a house? With a lot of work and planning!

In November of 2010, volunteers from North Star Rescue and the emergency team from the Humane Society of the United States joined together to secure everything needed to give these rats the second chance at life that they so deserved. Not only did a plan have to be made to catch the rats, but they had to be safely transported to a location that would have to be quickly made to accomadate over 1,000 rats. Plans had to be made for their long term care, medical care, and socialization so that one day they could be adopted out to spend the rest of their lives being cared for like normal pet rats.

A plan was made to catch all of the rats, using over two hundred small cages and transportation bins made specially for the rats to travel in. They would later take a ride on a temperature controlled freight truck from the house in Southern California to San Jose where an emergency shelter was being set up for the rats.

Rows of bins are lined up, ready to load on to the freight truck that will transport the rats

Rows of bins are lined up, ready to load on to the freight truck that will transport the rats

In San Jose, the staff at Andy's Pet Shop were hard at work clearing their main floor of all of the store equipment and their fixtures to make a large open space for the rats to live in their new cages. Pallets and pallets of equipment, food, bedding and toys for the rats arrived from Petsmart Charities Relief Waggin' program, donated to make sure the rats had a comfortable place to land when they arrived.

Volunteers from United Animal Nations arrived to work alongside staff members from Andy's Pet Shop and volunteers from North Star Rescue to build over 200 more cages, including large ferret nations that would house large social groups of rats, and smaller isolation cages for the sick and injured who would need treatment. A maternity ward was built for pregnancy rats, an isolation room for the sick, and rows and rows of cages were set up on the main floor for the majority of the rat population. A medical room was equipped for Veterinary help on site, and a hallway was streamlined with tables for teams of volunteers working in shifts to document each individual rat coming in.

The filming crew prepares to enter the house during filming in protective suits

The filming crew prepares to enter the house during filming in protective suits

On November 17th, 2010, volunteers from North Star Rescue and the emergency team from the Humane Society of United States met in Southern California to finish building bins and filling them with bedding to give the rats a comfortable ride to their new temporary home. Huge coolers were loaded with cut produce to help keep the rats fed and hydrated during the truck ride. The team met to solidify the plan to round up the rats.

Early on November 18th, the combined team of the Humane Society of the United States and North Star Rescue joined the production team for A&E's Hoarders and the clean-up crew who would help strip down the walls and clean out the house so that it might eventually be habitable again one day. Team leads walked through the house to start a plan and to assess problem areas where it would be more difficult to catch the rats, such as holes in the walls that went into contained areas out of arm's reach.

Through the day on November 18th, the team worked at a frantic pace to catch the rats and sort them into compatible groups that could safely ride on the truck together. The rats had to be rounded up using pens and corrals, caught by hand, and secured into bins that would be taken out to teams monitoring the social behavior on the truck and pulling the sick and injured rats to be checked by Dr. Lynn McEwans, the veterinarian on site assisting with the first triage of the rats.

Cynthia from North Star Rescue stands by stacked bins, ready for the team catching rats in the house

Cynthia from North Star Rescue stands by stacked bins, ready for the team catching rats in the house

Throughout the day, the rats were caught, sorted, and fed to keep the groups stable for the truck ride. The day was difficult for the whole team, who ran between the house to move containers full of rats, and worked quickly to pull badly injured rats out to go to the emergency medical center on site. Many of the rats, suffering severe wounds from social aggression in the house caused by too many rats and not enough food, were severely injured or malnourished, and the rats who could not be saved were given a humane euthanasia so that they would no longer have to suffer.

At the end of the day, approximately 1/3 of the rat population remained in the house and hundreds of rats were already loaded on the truck. The exhausted team worked well into the night before returning to a hotel to rest, waking up about four hours later to return to continue catching and sorting the rats. Three of the five volunteers from North Star Rescue flew back that morning to make sure that the emergency shelter was equipped and the volunteers were prepared to receive the rats.

Pens are used to encircle the rats to make them easier to catch in the house

Pens are used to encircle the rats to make them easier to catch in the house

On November 19th, the remaining rats in the house were caught and placed onto the truck. With the catching of so many loose rats taking the majority of the next day as well, the rats were made comfortable on the truck to rest up for one night along with the team who would drive up the following day.

On November 20th, the rats arrived on the freight truck and a team of approximately 30 volunteers from United Animal Nations, North Star Rescue and friends of Andy's Pet Shop started to unload hundreds of containers of rats. The rats were rushed into the emergency shelter where they received critical medical support for many of the sick and injured who could still be saved, and more volunteers circulated quickly to feed and water all of the rats.

For the following week, a dedicated team of volunteers from United Animal Nations assisted the North Star Rescue team to operate the emergency shelter at Andy's Pet Shop. Rats were sorted by the hundreds, checked over individually by experienced rat caregivers, and moved into large habitats where they could comfortably enjoy nest boxes, hammocks, treats, good food and clean water.

Volunteers from United Animal Nations assist with the intake of the rats at the temporary shelter

Volunteers from United Animal Nations assist with the intake of the rats at the temporary shelter

The North Star Rescue team continues to work to provide the rats day to day care, socialization and medical attention with the expert assistance of Dr. Carolyn Harvey of Chabot Veterinary Clinic in Hayward, and have been joined by many animal lovers to have volunteered to work at the emergency shelter to help take care of the rats.

The temporary rat shelter is expected to operate at Andy's Pet Shop in San Jose until April or May of 2011. Since the rats were removed from the property in November of 2010, over 1,000 rats have either been adopted or transferred to other shelters or rescues who are assisting with finding them all homes. Hundreds more rats are still available for adoption, and North Star Rescue will continue to work with the rats until they can all find safe homes.

Category: Thousand Rat Rescue

The Story of the Rats

Hundreds of rats gather during feeding time in the living room of the home.

In November of 2010, North Star Rescue, The Humane Society of the United States and United Animal Nations worked together to rescue over 1,000 domestic rats from a severely overpopulated home where they were running loose and breeding out of control. The question has been asked over and over again...How could something like this happen?

Rats gather in a large open cage inside the house

The owner of all of the rats began with a single pet rat his daughter brought home from school, who turned out to be pregnant. "Grandma Rat" wound up having babies, and shortly after her babies had babies, but the situation didn't really get out of control until they escaped their cages and started multiplying in the house. The owner of the rats, going through several other personal crisises, didn't realize how quickly the problem would get out of hand until the rats had overtaken the house.

A baby rat peeks out from her hiding spot in a chewed up mattress on the property

The rats began to search for new places to nest and hide from the growing population, and started to chew through the walls and make their way into the attic of the house, and slowly, started to escape the house and make their way into a neighboring warehouse on the property. The owner, who loved the rats and did not want to round them up to have them put to sleep, tried to keep the rats happy and moved out of the house, deciding to give it to them and provide as much food for them as possible. As an older man who had lost his wife unexpectedly, and whose children no longer lived at home, the rats were his constant companions.

This picture of the attic in the home shows insulation damaged by the rats who were seeking new places to nest

When we met the hoarder for the first time, we spoke at length with him about the rats and the situation. He cried as he told us how he loved the rats and did not know how to care for them, did not know how things had gotten so out of control, and only wanted for them to be happy and not have to be euthanized because of his mistakes. One of his few remaining joys was pouring out bags of food for the rats, and sitting with them while he listened to them eat.

Several rats sit in a dirty food bowl in one of several open cages on the property

Hoarding is a mental illness, and people affected are generally divided into two groups: property hoarders and animal hoarders. Property hoarders may keep large amounts of items that have specicial significance to them. Animal hoarders often collect large amounts of animals, feeling that no one else will care for them and love them the way that they do. In a hoarding situation that includes animals, both the humans and the animals involved suffer.

A malnourished rat with many injuries sits lethargic on the floor, and had to be euthanized at the property

A neighbor contacted the A&E Network show "Hoarders" and sent in pictures of the rat house, showing a house destroyed with a huge population of domestic rats. After contacting several groups, a plan was made not only to rescue the rats, but to get long term mental health therapy for the hoarder in hopes of saving the animals and the owner.

A pair of rats peek out of a hole in the wall, one of many holes leading to a connection of paths made by the rats in the house

Category: Thousand Rat Rescue
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