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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.