Holiday Horror

Diane Nesom
From the RMCA web site, January 2005

December 15, 2004 - San Francisco Bay Area, California

Rats from the SFACC Rescue While most normal people are worried about holiday shopping, getting their roasts for Christmas dinner, and making sure all of their seasonal decorations are in perfect order, animal rescuers have a myriad of other things on their minds as well as all the standard mundane things. The holidays, for me, is a love-hate relationship. I love the holidays for all the regular reasons but I hate the holidays because horrible things always happen with Rattie Ratz Rat Rescue. Two years ago, it was the devastating Menlo Park / Hollywood Abuse case which resulted in criminal charges to the owner and hundreds of mice and rats that were displaced into Rattie Ratz and other foster and rescue groups throughout the bay area. This year, it's the 178-rat dump at San Francisco Animal Care and Control.

On December 15th, 2004, 178 rats were dropped off at SFACC in 3 small dog crates. Allegedly, the surrenderer was horrified to find these crates, full of rats, on her lawn and immediately transported them to SFACC. Upon arrival at SFACC, they were all transferred into available cages and Sabrina Simmons, a volunteer at SFACC, was asked to help coordinate adopters, rescues, and foster placement. Rattie Ratz was notified about the situation on December 16th and started to secure foster homes for some of the animals. By Friday, December 17th, Rattie Ratz had secured temporary placement for up to 80 rats and Saturday, December 18th was the day scheduled to go up and select our rescues.


On Saturday, December 18th, 2 volunteers from Rattie Ratz went to the SFACC to rescue up to 80 animals. Upon our arrival at 12:30pm, we discovered that the SFACC had not been able to separate the animals by gender due to limited staff and volunteer resources. The on-site vet had been able to give them a basic check and 2 injured rats and 20 pregnant girls had already been euthanized as well as 4 litters of babies that were delivered during those first few days.

The first two hours or so were spent separating the rats by age and gender. We used plastic totes developed for the Hollywood rescue and eventually had everyone sorted into virgin girls, baby boys, young possibly pregnant girls, young boys, juvenile possibly pregnant girls, and juvenile boys. We then went through and divided the virgin girls into an adoptable group (5-6 weeks old) and a hold group (less than 4 weeks). We also did the same with the baby boys. We found 3 possibly nursing moms and put two in with the girls and 1 in with the boys. To our delight, 2 were nursing and each set of babies had a nursing mom.

Now came the selection process. A lot of angst and emotion are involved in the selection process. We need to evaluate who volunteered to foster and which gender they wanted to foster. We need to consider our financial situation and our obligation to the animals already in our care. Prior to selecting anyone, we need to know that we are capable of caring for these animals for the rest of their lives in the event that they do not find homes. The selection process is long and tedious and is often evaluated over and over again before rescuing animals.

In this situation, we had minimal resources: money, volunteers, fosters, and adoptive homes, and just not enough of everything required to rescue the optimum number of rats. Most of our foster homes specifically wanted girls. Most of our adopters want girls. Unfortunately, most of the rats already euthanized were girls, which left a lot of boys but Rattie Ratz already has A LOT of boys in the rescue that needs homes too so we were left in a very awkward situation. We wanted to rescue all 80 that we had secured placement for but there were only a limited number of girls and Sabrina had already secured homes for some of the immediately adoptable boys and girls…especially the young ones. We decided to take all of the potentially pregnant girls and all of the babies that were too young to be adopted out. We also took in 8 juvenile boys and 14 young boys for a total of 64 animals. We left the young virgin girls so SFACC could adopt those out right away. We also left some of the juvenile and older boys in the hopes that they would also find homes right away.

We agreed with the SFACC stipulation that all pregnant girls be spayed because they did not want any babies resulting from this rescue. I wish they had given us that option with the other 20 females who had already been euthanized.

An Ethical Dilemma

This was the first moral dilemma that we had to face during this particular rescue but it is also one that is faced on a semi-regular basis in animal rescue. Rescuers have to choose what to do in cases of pregnancy. Rattie Ratz's general policy is we evaluate each situation and come to a decision on what is best to do in that given situation. It is never an easy choice to come to and not everyone always agrees on what the best course of action is. In this case, there were 178 needy rats and the SFACC made the choice to euthanize the obviously pregnant girls and all newborn babies that were delivered. In retrospect, there was definitely the option to spay the pregnant girls but spaying costs money and each group needs to evaluate that to determine where their money is best spent.

I'm not sure what Rattie Ratz would have done if we found ourselves with the same problem. Spays cost us $40 each so, do we spend $800 spaying 20 pregnant girls? Do we let them have the babies and just euthanize the babies because we know we aren't going to be able to place 200 babies? Do we euthanize the moms before they have their babies? What would you do?

Honestly, if Rattie Ratz were faced with that exact situation, what to do with 20 pregnant animals, considering our limited resources, the fact that spays in rats are risky to begin with and, in heavily-pregnant animals, even more so, and our ultimate goal of saving as many rats as possible, we probably would have let them have their babies and humanely euthanized the litters as they were born. In this way, at least the original 20 girls, pregnant through no fault of their own, may have been spared and given a chance. If it were only up to five pregnant girls, then we may have opted to raise and place the babies but 20! Come on now. Who will come forward and honestly tell me they are equipped and ready to raise and adopt out 20 pregnant moms and their resulting 200 babies? In a perfect, ideal world, Rattie Ratz would have unlimited resources: money, volunteers, fosters, adoptive homes, and raising and adopting out 20 pregnant moms and their resulting 200 babies would have been the only option we would have considered. In the real world, in this rescue we are actually talking about very limited resources and more than just 20 pregnant moms because 12 more girls have already started to show signs of pregnancy. Only time will tell us how many rats we would have ended up with had all the moms been allowed to have and keep their babies.

Into Foster, But Still Much More to Be Done

We returned to the Rattie Ratz hub, in Mountain View, to do a second assessment and get our rescued rats into proper cage set-ups. Once they were set up in cages with food, water, treats, toys, and a house, I was left to update the Rattie Ratz website with all of the new information. There is a rescue log available through http://www.RattieRatz.com/, if you wish to read more details regarding the daily happenings for this rescue effort.

So far, 64 rats have come to Rattie Ratz, 13 rats have gone to One at a Time Rescue, and the others are being adopted out or placed into foster care directly through the SFACC. As of December 19, 23 females and 19 males are available for immediate adoption through SFACC. Rattie Ratz currently has 22 males, from the SFACC dump, who are available immediately and many existing rescued rats who are available for immediate adoption. The other 42, from the SFACC dump, are on hold due to possible pregnancy or age. Unfortunately, as of December 20th, One at a Time Rescue has stated that they can no longer assist with this rescue effort and they have pulled all information off of their website. Apparently, there was a misunderstanding, which resulted in this action on behalf of One at a Time Rescue.

If you would like to help the rats involved in this rescue effort, please consider contributing to our rescue's four basic resources: money, volunteers, foster, and adoptive homes. There will be transport to Sacramento in mid-January, 2005, making it possible to adopt out to more of the California rat-loving community. You can also volunteer to be a foster home for some of the rats who need to be held until the middle of January due to age or possible pregnancy. It would be most helpful if you were NOT concerned about the gender of the rats in your care. This was one of the factors that limited the number of rats we were able to assist in the first place. You can also help, in 2005, by volunteering at some of our adoption events. We are planning to organize a few events for the middle to end of January to place the remaining girls that would be cleared for adoption at that point. You can also help immediately by donating funding to this rescue effort.

Please contact the following based on how you would like to help:


Rattie Ratz
Diane Nesom: , (650) 960-6994
Linda Bradley: , (408) 266-2572

San Francisco Animal Care and Control
Sabrina Simmons: , (415) 203-1769

Fostering / Volunteer / Donate

Rattie Ratz
Diane Nesom: , (650) 960-6994

More information can be found at: