A Florida woman's home is inundated with hundreds of pet rats scurrying around. They're living in the walls and chewing through the furniture, and homeowner Florine Brown, 29, is reluctant to let them go. Inside Brown's St. Petersburg home, holes are in the furniture and a foul odour fills the air. ‘They have taken over. They're in every room pretty much around the house. They're in the kitchen, they're in the stairs, they're in my room,” said Brown. "It got really out of control, but I still wanted to keep them."
The rats are hiding in cabinets, scurrying under chairs and even poking their heads under stove burners.
Brown loves these rodents. She started with three back in 2012, but they escaped and multiplied. Now there are around 300.
Brown reasoned, "I didn't think of it as a big deal or a problem. I still don't, but it really got out of hand."
A family member called local animal rescue groups.
SPCA Tampa Bay, The Humane Society of Pinellas County, and the ASPCA are helping out.
Over the next few weeks, members from the agencies will safely remove the rats and take them to new homes.
It's a slow process since there are so many rats, so officials say it may take around a month to complete. The rats are being captured alive and new homes must be found for them.
Neighbours had tried to warn Brown to stop the rodents from mating.
Already about 70 rats have been removed in the past few days, but there's a lot more work to do.
"I love [the rats.] I have deep compassion for them," said Brown.
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"I just want them to go to good homes."
Florine developed a close attachment to these rats after her grandparents died recently.
“I lost my job and I was very depressed, and I wasn't working at the time, so I really depended on the rats a lot to get me by,” she said.
She went through a bout of depression and she used them as a coping mechanism.
But now the problem has got out of control, so the rats have got to go.
An SPCA spokesperson says if you know someone who is hoarding animals, it's important to call animal rescue groups.