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May 24, 2011

Rescued Rats Find Good Homes with HSUS Staff

Tiny pets hitchhike cross country for adoption

  • Laura Maloney, chief of staff for The HSUS, will soon be able to bring her two pet rats to the office as part of the expanding "pets at work" program. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

by Kristen Eastman

At first glance the scene might seem odd: A well-dressed woman sits in her office, two soft, furry rats perched upon her shoulders.

But this is no ordinary office, and these are no ordinary rats. Laura Maloney is chief of staff at The Humane Society of the United States—and the rats hitched a ride to Washington, D.C., with two big-rig truckers after being rescued last November from a massive hoarding case in California.

Maloney is a former shelter administrator, wildlife caretaker, and Hurricane Katrina first responder who is adopting two rats named Blondie and Dagwood. The HSUS’s director of operations for the Animal Rescue Team, Sára Varsa, has also adopted two of the California rats, and several other Animal Rescue Team staff members are fostering others. 

Rough start for rats

These pet rats recently became television stars when they were featured—along with about 2,000 of their relatives—on the season finale of A&E's "Hoarders" in January.

When rescuers from The HSUS, North Star Rescue, and United Animal Nations arrived on the scene in Llano, California, they found hundreds of rats roaming throughout the house and hiding inside walls and furniture. Some were suffering from skin conditions and parasites. The owner kept several domesticated rats as pets, but became overwhelmed and allowed them to breed until they eventually took over the house. 

Rescue team member Adam Parascandola, Director of Animal Cruelty Investigations for The HSUS, explained, “The staggering number of animals makes this case unique, but we do see all too often an animal lover who has gotten more animals than he could properly care for, so he surrendered them to us." 

Our Animal Rescue Team helped remove the animals from the overrun house. Hundreds of them have found good homes all around the country, while others are still awaiting adoption in the care of rescue groups. 

Ideal companions

Pet rats "are incredibly misunderstood," says Maloney. "They are bonded with each other, and each has their own personality." Blondie is more of a couch potato, according to Maloney, while Dagwood is an explorer.

For many, rats are the ideal companions: small, social, friendly, and intelligent. If you're thinking of adopting, keep in mind that rats need special food, attention, and care. You can learn more through our rat care resources.

Dagwood and Blondie will soon be keeping Maloney company every day at work: The HSUS’s successful dogs-at-work program is being expanded to include other companion animals. Throughout her career Maloney has been a champion for animals in huge cases like Hurricane Katrina, but no animal cause is too small. As the old saying goes, if you change the world for one animal, you change the world. No doubt Dagwood and Blondie’s twitching noses are saying a heartfelt "thank you."

Help their friends find homes

For more information about adopting rats from the California case, contact North Star Rescue.

Kristen Eastman is a public relations manager for The Humane Society of the United States.

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