I was sitting at my desk editing a video when my boss told me she just got a text from a captain with our Humane Law Enforcement: there was a van with 50 rats in it, the owner was relinquishing them and our officers were going to get them and bring them back to San Diego Humane Society.
I meet the officers in Del Mar. It’s one of the hoity-toity parts of San Diego – big houses, rich people, beautiful beaches.
The sergeant told me the owner, a nice woman named Carla, had asked the humane society for help. She was living in her van, which had broken down at the gas station where she worked. She couldn’t move it. She also said her two pet rats had chewed out of their cage and made babies after babies after babies. Now people were complaining about her van being parked there, the amount of rats, and her boss said if she didn’t move it she would lose her job. A desperate situation.
Two Del Mar housewives in yoga pants were hanging around, wanting to see Carla “get in trouble.” One of our officers explained to them that this was a delicate situation and it was not appropriate for them to rubberneck while someone is going through a hard time.
Before we walked up to the van, the sergeant told me “We just really need to be patient, kind, and caring and show compassion and not judge. I’m not here to judge her, her situation. I’m just here to help her. If there’s any other ways that we can help her, shoot, ask, I’m here.”
It was immediately clear that there were more than 50 rats in the van – it was more like 300!
It was also clear that Carla loved every.single.one. As she helped our officers put them in carriers, she gave each one a little kiss goodbye through her tears.
A female rat can start having babies as soon as three weeks after it is born, and can have litters with as many as 12 rat babies. No wonder the situation had spiraled out of control. The rats had chewed up the inside of the van and the engine – most likely why it wouldn’t start anymore. The officers literally tore the van apart, trying to make sure they got every rat out. They found dozens of litters of newborn rats, and dozens more were pregnant.
“It wasn’t meant to be done but it happened so I appreciate all of you guys for helping and they’re gonna take them and try to keep them from having more babies,” Carla told me.
“I would say before it got so out of control like mine is, call the humane society. They’re not judgmental,” Carla spoke through her tears. “I’m sorry, I’m really sad about my rats. Call the humane society. They will help you before it gets astronomical like it did with me.” Here is the video I created about this rescue.
Months have passed now. When all was said and done, San Diego Humane Society cared for more than 700 rats. Many of the rats had their litters in our care, and we found great foster homes to take care of them and socialize the moms and their babies until they were ready for adoption. Hundreds have found new homes!
As for Carla, I hope she is thriving. Neighbors started a GoFundMe and raised more than $6500 for her. Other news articles say someone donated a car to her and she was getting help from homelessness resources.
I will never forget the way Humane Officers treated Carla, and how thankful and relieved she was to have their help. They brought their motto “inspire compassion” to life. I hope we can all remember to be kind and not judge.