Mission Impossible

Mary Ann Isaksen
From the Nov/Dec 1996 Rat & Mouse Gazette


When I got the call from Jackie Jennings in April of 1995, my jaw about hit the floor. She phoned to tell me about a news story that was being featured on just about every major network news cast. Hundreds of rats were found abandoned in a storage unit in Redondo Beach and were being held at the Hawthorne Animal Shelter. We agreed to get together food and shavings and go make a donation and check it out.

When we got there and spoke with the officer in charge of the rats, we were told that they were evidence and we could not see them. Apparently, they may not have been abandoned after all, but were not being cared for properly and were being housed illegally in the storage unit. They were waiting for someone to come forward and claim them so he or she could be arrested for animal cruelty. The rats would have to be held for two weeks before they could put them up for adoption.

We prodded the officer for more information and were told that there were 54 rats, all males--a veterinarian had sexed them. Our concerns were put to rest with the news that none of the animals would be used as reptile food--they would be offered for adoption at a cost of $5 each for a ten day period and the remaining rats would then be euthanized. We gave our donations and our telephone numbers with instructions to call us before any rat was euthanized and left the shelter.

Shortly before the two weeks were up, we spoke with the shelter again and found out that they had indeed made a mistake in sexing the rats--they were not all males and they were now having babies born almost daily! Hindsight is always 20-20, but it dawned on us then that we should have insisted on seeing them to keep this from happening.

After the waiting period, the rats were offered for adoption. The shelter managed to adopt out 18 adults and an unknown number of babies. We couldn't allow them to be killed after everything these poor animals had been through, so we told the shelter that we would take what was left. We ended up taking home 36 adults and 68 babies!

Shortly after rescuing them, many members came forward and began adopting them. Whole litters were adopted and one couple even took five adult males at one time while leaving all kinds of food and treats for the others behind. We had some very special people come forward to show they cared and our faith in humankind was renewed.

After all the adoptions were over, I was left with eight very special ratties--Scapo, Slash, Nipper, Clipper, Buddy, Taz, Sterling, and Taylor were to live out their lives in my home.

We received another call from the Hawthorne Shelter about a month after taking the first group. Someone had dumped three adult rats and 13 babies in a box behind the shelter. We took those ones as well. Adoptions went very well and we were able to place all but the adult male and one very skittish male offspring. Those two are still living in my home and are known as Beavis and Butthead, they were both unadoptable and do not like to be handled.


It now seemed like we were in the rescue business and we heard of another group of rats that were rescued from a burning crack house in Venice and were being held at the Santa Monica Shelter. These rats had been bred by reptile owners for food and the shelter was only charging one dollar each for them which was certain to seal their doom. I called the Shelter and told them that we would take every one of them that was left after the adoption period and to please make sure that they were not sold as feeders. Several members had been visiting the rats every day taking them food and treats, and had already adopted seven of them, and when they went in one day, they were told that one person had purchased them all. One member tried to find out where they were, to buy them back, but the shelter refused to divulge the information. Again, hindsight is 20-20 and we should have known to take them all and place them ourselves. We all felt really miserable about our failure.


In July of 1995, I received a call from another member who was volunteering her time at the Orange County Animal Shelter on a part time basis and had just discovered that another group of rats had been brought in by animal control that morning. She said there were 21 adult rats, males and females, all together in one bird cage with no food or water. They were left in the sun, by a dumpster, somewhere in Anaheim. The Shelter had intended to use some of them to feed the reptiles that they had there and charged their own volunteer $25 plus tax to rescue them! She brought them to me and we again began the adoption process. Only two of the females turned out to be pregnant and both were adopted immediately.

These rats were truly special. They were incredibly sweet and licky rats--almost every one of them kissed! We thought that they must have belonged to a child who allowed his pets to breed and it got out of control. The child's parents must have gotten fed up with it and abandoned them by the dumpster. That poor child had to be heartbroken over losing these wonderful little animals, but we felt lucky to have them. After the adoptions were over, there were still eight ratties in my care who I could not part with. Savo, Sabo, Shank, Phoebe, Crystal, Sabrina, Munch, and Moon joined my family.

During this four-month period in 1995, my rattie family grew quite rapidly and I stopped breeding almost completely. We had a full house. At no time did I ever regret taking these wonderful animals and have since added another pair from Hawthorne (Heckle and Jeckle) and three single rats from various people with hard luck stories (Squeak, Digby, and Bear). Obviously, none of us can continue to rescue rats on this kind of level, but can't each and every one of you find it in your heart to rescue just one? Check your local shelters and give a rat or mouse the ultimate Christmas present this year--a life of love and happiness!