A Wayne County woman with too many pet rats is facing 69 charges of animal cruelty after her landlord ratted her out to police.
Stephen Venturino, the landlord of the home on Johnson Road in Palmyra, told police that he noticed a horrible odor of urine and feces when he came by to install a new furnace filter earlier in the month, the Wayne County Times reported.
“The next day on 10/12/16, I was doing routine preparation for winter on the house, I was outside cleaning the gutters when I could see multiple cages of rats inside an upstairs bedroom,” Venturino said in a statement to police. “I could see that they had no food or water and they were all piled on top of each other in the cages.”
Police found 69 rats in cages in the home, and charged Michele Sestito, 32, with one count of animal cruelty for each rat.
“They weren’t being cared for, and the stench in the house was horrible,” Wayne County District Attorney Rick Healy told WHAM-TV.
Healy said there were no dead rats, but given the animals’ condition, it was only a matter of time.
Sestito told police that she started “rescuing” rats from pet stores about three years ago, but that she was forced to live elsewhere due to health issues. She said she had asked a “business partner” to check on the rats, but didn’t know they weren’t being properly cared for.
Officials also believed that the number of rats may have been closer to 100, but that some had already been removed from the home.
There was also a tame pigeon in the house, according to the Times.
The rats were treated for a lice infestation, and were placed at shelters and rescues in the area.
Healy plans to seek a ban on Sestito owning other pets in the future, rather than jail time.