One of the worst parts about working at a shelter is that you see the unpleasant way that some people treat animals. From people behaving impatient and yelling at an animal that isn't behaving the way the owner wants them to, to outright abuse and neglect. Sometimes we can help and the animal ends up better off. Sometimes there isn't anything we can do legally or otherwise, and we have to accept that we did the best we could.
When cases of abuse or neglect to animals such as cats, dogs and horses are publicized, many people are understandably outraged and feel a great deal of empathy for what the animal had to endure. For many people it's harder to empathize with animals that are not universally accepted as good pets. As a matter of fact many people shudder at the thought of sharing their lives with pet rats.
Rats actually make excellent pets. They are social animals and enjoy interaction with people. They are very smart and can learn to come when called and to perform tricks. And they are fun to watch. Many people dislike the hairless tail, but the tail is hairless because rats are easily over-heated, and the lack of hair on the tail helps them to cool their body temperature down. No matter how you feel about rats, no animal deserves to be treated in an abusive and inhumane manner.
The call came in on the morning of Thursday, January 2 that someone had found 14 domestic rats in a snow bank. By the time our staff got out there several had died of exposure and a few had feet that were frozen to the ice. HAWS staff had to take hair dryers to free them. Eleven eventually survived.
Several of the rats were females, and were sent to foster care on maternity watch. Only one of the females ended up giving birth and mother and babies are still in foster care and doing fine.
We don't know who abandoned these animals in such a cruel manner. Where they originally feeder rats for a snake that were no longer needed, or did someone get in over their heads with too many rats and not enough resources to care for them? We'll never know.
What I do know is that through the kindness of someone who cared enough to call HAWS we were able to save most of them. I'd like to think that for every act of cruelty there's a balance of an act of kindness. Hopefully we can get all our ratties adopted out into good homes so that they never need to experience the worst side of human behavior again.