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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Long story short--can someone get in trouble for abusing a rat the way they can a cat or dog?

I know someone who has a rat they keep in a tank which is never cleaned. This person delibrately gives the rat rotten food because "it's a rat, they prefer rotted food." And they only give it leftovers--bologna sandwiches, cupcakes, that kind of ****. The tank is empty except for newspaper and a wicker basket.

The rat is male and un neutered. Recently the person bought a female rat which was pregnant; he wanted to feed the babies to his fish and the mother to his python after she gave birth (a new mother rat is the most nutritious kind. really. not worth it to me to make a bunch of baby orphans, but....)

He just tossed the pregnant female into the un neutered male rat's filthy tank without bothering with intros. She gave birth and they both cannibalized the babies. No idea what became of the mom, if she ended up going to the python or what.

Is there anything I can do?
 

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In NJ, there was a fellow that caught and brutally killed a wild rat he caught outside his home... Operative words being 'outside his home' Several small children were traumatized and someone took a cell phone video. He was convicted of animal abuse and to some degree it did set a precedent.... Keep in mind, outside this rat was legally considered "wildlife" and not snake food.

So far, I haven't seen any cases of prosecution in NJ regarding feeder rats. I don't think there are likely to be any, any time soon. There is a large reptile, education, research and lab industry in our state and they will lobby against anything meaningful.

Unless you have an unusually sympathetic animal control or SPCA person nearby, I wouldn't expect too much help in your situation.

I realize it's hard to understand, but we train and travel with true shoulder rats and we can go places where dog's aren't allowed as all rats are technically wildlife when they are outdoors... Some time back we went through the various laws regarding rats in NJ only to find out there's no such thing as a fancy or even pet rat, legally speaking the terms haven't even been defined. So our rats simply don't legally exist. To make things even more interesting, it benefits both us and code/law enforcement to keep things that way... The municipality changed their no pet policy to "no animals" to get around the problem and we've made certain concessions to avoid conflict, but it's a peculiar dance, including an ordinance that requires homeowners to exterminate rats in their homes for health reasons that pet rats might violate if taken too literally the town doesn't enforce unless there's a complaint.

Fancy rats having legal standing is a real mess, no one wants to sort out, it will cost everyone hundreds of thousands of dollars and most likely make things worse for everyone when a judge or legislature gets through with it. So for now, unless you have something on a massive scale that's egregious in the extreme and well documented by photos, witnesses and video you shouldn't expect any help from the authorities.

I know it's sad, and I know it's wrong, but believe it or not, things could be worse. For as soon as the issue of fancy pet rats comes up, someone is going to try and ban them, permit them or license them to solve the problem.
 

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I would contact the local SPCA.
Here is the page with call and e-mail information to report abused animals:
https://spcacincinnati.org/contact

They can, will and have stepped in before. Just because they might not isn't a good reason to not at least report it, it only takes a few minutes. It's important to report these things and not let them just be forgotten about.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
It just makes me shake with rage and I knew this was a place where you would all share that feeling with me. I'm not hopeful about the SPCA either. I called them to report that I see my neighbor slap and constantly verbally abuse her dog and they said that unless the dog had visible injuries there was nothing they could do. I assume they don't know anything about how a rat needs to be kept; they would see a fat rat or two in a tank that looked vaguely big enough to hold them, and then laugh at the silly autistic person who cares too much about vermin.
 

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Rat daddy- Am I misunderstanding your post, or did you say that where you live (your municipality) they do not allow pets? If so... That's crazy and a good example of government getting "too big for its britches". It is a shame that we have to feel like the government is a threat to our rights as pet owners.

erinsweeney- Usually being kept in poor conditions is enough to get someone a warning at least. If the tank is as filthy as you say, they should do something regardless of the type of animal being housed. Such conditions are a health risk after all. I do not think it being a feeder rat should have anything to do with it in that regard.

Honestly, if this guy keeps the rats like that, odds are he is not a good reptile owner either. I own pet rats, but I also own reptiles (snakes and geckos). All the other owners I know take care of their feeders.. The health of the rats is a big issue with them (cleanliness, diet, etc.). The general consensus is that even though they will be used as feeders, they deserve good treatment and living conditions until the end. You do not want to feed something to your reptile that might make it sick due to contamination and healthier happier feeders = healthier reptiles.

I think most of the people that mistreat feeders like this are the same people that get snakes because "they are cool and eat other animals". These same people usually treat the snakes poorly and end up dumping them on CL or releasing them into the wild to die, etc. when watching it eats gets old to them.

I am sorry this is happening near to you and that there may not be anything you can do to stop it. Hopefully this jerk won't get any more animals and will find a better / new home for his snake as well. I would say that you might be able to offer to buy the rat from him, but he would probably just replace it with another one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yeah, he's not a good reptile owner--his 6ft python lives in a closet.
 

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My boyfriend once called either the APL or the SPCA once about an animal hoarder, who just happened to be his mother. She had a few rats, 14 cats (all unaltered), 4 dogs (males fixed), a bird, a guinea pig, turtles, fish, etc. all living in kinda filthy conditions, and the house smelled like urine from the street. We explained this and the response we got was "as long as the animals are receiving food and water, they don't care what kind of condition they live in."

I was livid. The cats and rats had respiratory problems due to the ammonia. And the dogs and cats just went to the bathroom where they please.
He gave her an ultimatum, that we would help her clean the house if she kept only 1 dog and 2 cats and none of the other animals (I would have gladly taken the rats) or he would leave and she would never hear from him again. Well we tried for about a year, and all she was able to do was rehome one dog. She argued with us everyday and wanted to keep 6 cats, 3 dogs, and all the caged animals. So needless to say, I haven't seen her in a year and a half. We called on her again, but got a similar response.

That being said, a roommate of a friend of mine keeps his elderly rat in a dirty tank, feeds it breakfast cereal and doesn't care for it. He also has a bearded dragon that looks in poor condition. She told me to take the rat, because it always escaped anyways since he never put the lid back on his tank. He was home though when I was leaving (her house is hours away) so I couldn't. Poor little guy.

Sorry for the rambling but honestly, you can try to call but I don't know what they'll do. Small animals are never really taken seriously like dogs and cats. If the snake is in poor condition you can also report that and they might take a look. But if he states that the rat is for feeding purposes, I don't know if they will do anything about that. Does he have more animals like this in bad condition? You might be able to call and say he's a hoarder if so.
 

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It's actually no misunderstanding, there actually are local municipal codes the require local residential property owners and especially landlords to keep their premises rat (and other pest) free. As there is no legal definition of "pet rat" or "fancy rat" so technically my home is not rat free.

When we first bought our house, the tenant that was living there already called the town and reported the "rats" in our backyard and the town responded by sending the housing official and the health department officer... I showed them the groundhogs that still live in the yard and they left... groundhogs are not rats and therefore don't violate any health codes...

I recently ran across a lady that did have to get rid of her pet rats and pet mice because her town cited her for having rats and mice in violation of the health code.... but as she used the expressions "all of my cages" and "they cost so much to feed" I'm thinking her issue may have been borderline hording... and to be fair it might have been an issue we might not want to defend...

In most states local ordinances follow a "model code" so for the most part one town's laws are very similar to another's. When we first started taking our shoulder rats about town, especially into stores and restaurants we had a long meaningful discussion with the health official and he looked up the various laws and regulations and we reached a pretty amicable arrangement. He really had no interest in going to court to enforce a law against one single and popular rat. Many people, including certain key public officials knew and liked Fuzzy Rat, she entertained the handicapped kids at the town fire department picnic and was a popular attraction at the fireworks shows and town fairs. He absolutely didn't want to get caught up in a crap storm of bad publicity going after a little girls pet rat that most people in town actually knew and liked and I on the other hand had no interest in going to appeals court to have a judge give our rat "legal standing".

I won't go into the terms of the agreement, but it was something we could all live with. The fact is, at the time there was only one true shoulder rat in the area, ours... And the government officials didn't want one particularly popular and charming rat to challenge their status quo, and I didn't want to to spend tens of thousand of dollars in the courts to define a legal status for one rat that would never outlive the ten year appeals process anyway. And then I might have lost... or wound up with a situation that was worse.

Depending on where you live, you will most likely find out that pet rats or fancy rats aren't legally defined. Labs and universities don't want rats to have standing, neither does the pet industry that sells mostly feeder rats for expensive snakes and such, nor does it help exterminators and businesses who set traps that might catch fancy rats and health departments have their own rat issues without having to define some as pets and for the most part those of us with true shoulder rats are better off without a body of law telling us where we can and can't go or live. In fact, as soon as pet rats get legal standing you can bet there will be a license and a permit fee involved in owning them.

I realize that not having legal standing as pets makes it easier for some people to mistreat rats, but when you look at who the big money vested interests are in the game, more rules and laws are more likely to hurt us than help us. To be entirely honest, the easiest way for any government agency to deal with pet rats is just to ban them.... problem solved. My state already has a list of banned animals adding one more would be no trouble at all.

Always keep in mind you can make things worse when you poke the sleeping bear. As bad as things are, it's easy to see how they can actually get worse.
 
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