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CA: Officers find squalid 'mess' in barn used to breed rats


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Posted by Desiree on July 19, 2002 at 10:09:39:

I thot this would be informative for those that may purchase feeder rats from this vendor.
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Officers find squalid 'mess' in barn used to breed rats


By Kevin Clerici
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

July 18, 2002

ENCINITAS Responding to an animal abuse complaint, animal control officers Monday found more than 20,000 rats living in squalid conditions at a rat-breeding business.

Hundreds of rats were dead, in various states of decay, as other rats tread over them. Hundreds more were sick or injured. Animal control officers seized 68, of which more than two dozen were ailing baby rats.

"The place is a mess," animal control Lt. Mary Kay Gagliardo said.

"The stench was overpowering," she said. "Officers were gagging. They couldn't stay inside the barn for longer than a minute to three minutes at a time."

Peter Springer and Bob Turner have owned the commercial rat-breeding business, Rats R Us, for eight years.

Springer, 61, said yesterday that he has a permit to raise them on his 11/2-acre property on Union Street near Saxony Road, where the partners produce up to 12,000 rats a month.

He sells live and frozen rats for about $1 each to distributors in Los Angeles, who then sell the rodents to pet stores and zoos.

Animal control officials said the market is down for rat breeders, and a price increase this spring has reduced demand.

Springer said the animal control officials "don't understand the rat business. We attempt to care for them, but some will die."

Springer told the animal control officials that snakes come out of hibernation this time of year and demand usually surges for the popular reptile food. He said he sent 3,000 rats to Los Angeles on Tuesday, an increase of 500 rats from last week's order.

"Granted, they probably caught me when the place is at the worst it's ever been," Springer said. "Our job is to anticipate the market. And almost invariably we end up with more rats than they need."

Officials didn't cite Springer on Monday, but will conduct another inspection early next week to see if improvements have been made.

The officials plan to hold a hearing later next week to determine what standards the owners must follow in caring for the animals.

"Every creature, even a rat, deserves to live in a clean environment and breathe clean air," Gagliardo said.

Officials are researching what limitations they can place on the business. A big dispute between Springer and animal control officials is over the number of rats per cage. Gagliardo said a veterinarian has recommended no more than 10 to 15 per cage. Monday, officers found cages with 50 to 60.

Springer said it takes 15,000 to 20,000 rats to maintain his operation, but Gagliardo said that when the business was inspected in April 2001, records showed it had no more than 6,000.





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