A Town of Plover woman will have to find a new home after being evicted from the Birch Tree Estates for having too many pet rats, which at one point was estimated at 200 or more.
Darlene Flatoff, 58, was given her first pet rat as a gift, but over the course of a year one rat multiplied into hundreds.
“They’re my babies,” Flatoff said.
Now, after ignoring warnings to get rid of the rats, she’s been evicted from her trailer home, despite owning the trailer, because having the rats is against park rules and the situation is considered a public health hazard.
“Somehow she feels that these are pets and it has now exploded to estimates of anywhere from 3 to 400 rats,” said Tim Karcheski, the Town of Plover chairman.
While our crew was in the home Tuesday morning, we only witnessed a few dozen rats, and Flatoff had already gotten rid of many of them herself.
An exotic animal rescue business, Nature’s Niche of Stevens Point, has removed a total of 250 animals from the home over the last year, but the problem persists.
Flatoff was served eviction papers Monday, and has up to ten days to vacate the property, so exterminators can tackle the rat problem.
Meanwhile, her neighbors fear the rats could infest their homes if swift action isn’t taken.
“The neighbors here are very upset about having this person here because they’re always concerned about the rats going in their places,” said Miguel Lopez, who manages the mobile home park.
So far he says there has only been one incident of a rat seen wandering around the park, and the rats appear to be contained to Flatoff’s trailer.
Karcheski says he hasn’t heard of any other complaints.
Authorities were tipped off to the rat problem after a Town of Plover police officer gave Flatoff a ride home and noticed the animals in December.
The Portage County Sheriff’s Department was called in for a welfare check, and according to a police report deputies immediately noticed an estimated 200 rats, which at one point were crawling on Flatoff.
Soon the Portage County Health and Human Services Department was called in. A health officer deemed the home unsuitable to live in, and along with the town is in the process of having it condemned.
“The town is working on getting it cleaned up and hopefully it will be done in the next few months,” said Karcheski.
Meanwhile, Flatoff isn’t sure where she’ll go and what will happen to her animals.
“They don’t have diseases. They’re sweet little babies,” she said.
The Town of Plover Board met Tuesday to discuss the problem.