ST PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) –
From the outside, the house in the 800 Block of 10th Avenue South in St. Petersburg looks nice.
It’s set among trees and has been a part of a St. Petersburg family for several generations.
Now, officials are describing it as a house of horrors on the inside.
The home belongs to Florine Brown, 29 of St. Petersburg.
Her family has called in the city and the SPCA for help after discovering the home is overrun by rats.
“I’ve been consistently trying to get her to do something about this problem,” said Brown’s uncle Lonnie Coleman.
Coleman says the family wants to get mental health counseling for his niece and he’s concerned it will take thousands of dollars to repair the damage in the home.
” A lot of drywall. Going to have to do the floors over, most definitely is going to need painting, I mean all of the furniture is gone right now,” said Coleman.
Officials estimate there may be between 500 and 700 rats in the house.
They can be heard scurrying through the walls, the ceiling and closets.
Live rats can be seen running across furniture and the floor.
Rat droppings and rat urine soak the floor and furniture.
Monday, city crews and the SPCA began the process of removing the rats from the home.
Officials say it will not be quick or easy.
Cliff Smith is the manager of Veteran, social and homeless services for the City of St. Petersburg and is supervising the effort.
“There are literally hundreds in the house and the family realized it was out of control and they asked us for help,” said Smith.
After the SPCA removed live rats in the home that were in cages, sanitation workers were called in to set traps to catch the remaining rats that are running wild in the home.
“It’s going to be a long process, it’s probably going to take a couple of weeks for us to catch em,” said Smith.
A member of the family allowed a crew from WFLA TV into the home.
As they walked through the house, they could hear and see live rats and the occasional sound of a trap being sprung as a rat was killed.
Smith says eventually the traps will not be effective.
“At some point, you catch all you can catch and the rats are very intelligent creatures and they become trap shy and you won’t catch anymore so you’ll still have some remaining. At that point, one of our options is tent the home and we’re looking at that,” said Smith.
Family members have now removed Florine Brown from the home.
They discovered she was still feeding the rats, giving them water and disabling traps that were set to catch the rats.
Spaulding Decon specializes in cleaning up homes in hoarding situations.
Once a year, they donate one free cleanup and now the company has offered to clean this home up for free.
Laura Spaulding says she’s similar situations.
” It’s typical of animal hoarders. There heart is in the right place, but when it compounds, they don’t want to get rid of the rats. They stop telling people to come over because the problem has gotten out of hand and now it’s to the point where it’s harmful to her health to live in there,” said Spaulding.
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