First page of the Pet archive.

Do not say “rats” to pet rats

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 23, 2017 in Rat News

By Madelyn Jones
Staff Writer

When people hear “rat,” their first instinct is usually to label them as a pest or vermin, but today I ask you to think of them as something else: a loving pet. People often think of hamsters or guinea pigs when they plan on getting a pet rodent, but a rat is just as good of a choice, or in my opinion, even better.

In sixth grade, my aunt asked me if I wanted a pet rat for my birthday, and I was appalled. I had never heard of someone owning a rat, and I thought they were dirty and vicious. Then one day, I randomly woke up with a change of heart, and went to the pet store to get my first rat. Since then, I have had seven rats who have all been amazing pets.

Rats are often associated with labs or the street. They have a reputation of being unclean and mean, but that does not ring true when they are domesticated. In fact, rats clean themselves more than cats. Wild rats are only dirty because of their environment.

If you get a rat when it is young, it bonds to you. People often overlook how emotional rats are, but pet rats genuinely love and care for their owners.

If you want a pet that loves attention, rats are a perfect choice. They are pack animals, so they can easily get lonely, and, therefore, they are obvious when they want love, and they want it quite often. I had a rat that would stick her nose in between the bars of her cage when I walked into the room, and not stop until I picked her up.

I have had a good amount of experience with rats, and I have never met one that reminds me of another. They have complex and unique personalities, just like dogs and cats.

Rats are also incredibly smart. They love to be entertained with new toys and places to explore. You can also teach them tricks; you can even teach them how to swim!

Another plus to pet rats is that they are not expensive to take care of. If you cannot afford a dog or cat, but still want an animal to love that will love you back, a rat is a good option.

In general, they are cuter animals than people expect. Many love to give kisses, play, cuddle and burrow in blankets. Some animals become attuned to their owner’s emotions and lend them support, and rats are no different. I had a rat that noticed every time I was upset, and when I took her out of the cage, refused to play, and stayed by my side until I felt better.

I introduced my rats to many people who were skeptical about them, and the vast majority ended up falling in love with how cuddly and sweet they are. The negative stereotypes about rats are not relevant to domesticated ones, and usually once people meet a pet rat, they change their opinions on them become positive.

It is important to teach people to throw away the stereotypes of rats because they are sweet creatures who just want to be loved.

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Lower Mainland animal rescue groups banding together

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 22, 2017 in Rat News

An explosion in the number of animal-rescue groups in B.C. has prompted a Lower Mainland organization to look at developing standards for rescue groups.

Currently, anyone in B.C. can take in animals and say they are running an animal shelter or rescue group. And as long as they are following local bylaws and not breaking animal-cruelty laws, there is nothing anyone can do to stop or regulate them.

“It is the wild west when it comes to animal rescue,” said Kathy Powelson, executive director of the Paws for Hope Animal Foundation. “Anyone can do just about anything.”

Powelson said that when she started her organization six years ago, there were about 65 animal-rescue groups in B.C. Last year, while preparing a report, her team mapped out rescue organizations and found more than 170, not counting B.C. SPCA branches and municipal shelters.

Most of them are doing great work, she said, but there are a few that aren’t doing what they say they are, and there is no way to hold them accountable.

Paws for Hope is in the midst of creating the Animal Welfare Advisory Network of B.C. A steering committee has been set up with representatives from nine animal-welfare organizations, including the B.C. SPCA and Paws for Hope. The committee will act as a governing body for the network.

The network will allow organizations to work together to fund or implement regional and provincial strategies to address issues such as pet abandonment, abuse and overpopulation.

At an initial meeting last year, Powelson said representatives from more than 20 organizations agreed that setting rescue standards is a priority. Powelson said they hope to begin developing those standards in the fall.

Tasha Bukovnik, who sits on the board of the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, said the animal-rescue community currently polices itself.

“Everyone tries to keep in touch with each other and we work with a lot of other organizations and share information among each other and try to help each other out,” she said. “We usually hear reports if someone is doing something we don’t think falls in line.”

Bukovnik said she supports the idea of having standards for reputable rescue organizations.

Marcie Moriarty, the B.C. SPCA’s chief prevention and enforcement officer agreed.

“An organization like Paws for Hope that is working toward professionalizing the industry is great,” she said.

Powelson said setting standards is a good first step, but it’s not going to stop cases like the one that hit the news on Monday, when the B.C. SPCA seized 17 animals from a Langley property that is home to Sandra Simans, the operator of 1atatime Rescue Society. Last September, the B.C. SPCA seized 88 animals from Simans’s organization — one of the largest seizures in B.C. SPCA history — and 72 animals in 2012.

1atatime Rescue Society is a registered and incorporated society in B.C.

A search of corporate records shows that 1atatime is currently not in good standing and in danger of being dissolved because it has failed to file an annual report since 2014. The society was dissolved once before, in October 2010, for the same reason, but restored as a society in February 2011.

1atatime is also a federally registered charity and has been since 2006.

Neither the provincial or federal governments monitor the activities of societies or charities beyond looking at their financial information and whether they follow regulations.

Powelson said the network will not be a regulatory body, and she would like to have discussions with the provincial government about regulating animal rescue groups.

“There needs to be checks and balances,” she said. “No one is accountable, which I just think is insane.”

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Queens SPCA needs more volunteers

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 21, 2017 in Rat News

LIVERPOOL – Walk into the Queen’s SPCA’s thrift shop any day, and you just might see a foster dog or cat hanging about, waiting to go to it’s forever home.

On this day, there was Angus, who was rescued from a home several weeks ago, in very bad shape. He was covered in feces, not housetrained, and completely unsocialized.

Two weeks of foster care with an SPCA volunteer, Angus turned into a beautiful dog, groomed, well mannered, and housetrained. And best of all, the volunteers had found him a forever home.

But the Queen’s SPCA is having trouble finding foster homes for the animals they take in – and volunteers for many other activities that are required for the care and safety of animals in Queens County.

Jill Grafton is an SPCA volunteer. She says the group takes in as many homeless animals as it can, but it’s volunteer level is about half of what it should be.

“People phone us in different situations, most often they find a cat under their porch or in their shed or something, so what are they going to do. We arrange for these stray or homeless animals to go to the vet, get spayed and neutered, and then we advertise new homes for them.”

The organization has a list of volunteer foster parents, but there is a shortage, says Grafton.

“There’s always a shortage. There’s always more work than the people we have. So we’re always glad when people step up and say ‘can I help?’,”

She says there is a need for foster homes for cats and kittens, but there are other jobs that volunteers can do.

She says there are about a  half dozen volunteers right now, they could use another half dozen.

“Certainly fosters,  people to sometimes drive pets to the vet, people with computer skills who could make posters or do data entries or that sort of thing,” she says.

Most volunteers, she says, have a passion for animals and don’t like to see animals in distress.

The SPCA has a thrift shop, which is open two afternoons a week. All of the proceeds go to vet bills.

“It’s usually between $30,000 and $40,000, our vet bills. The average animal we do re-home pets, but we also run a low cost low income program to help low income people get their pets spayed or neutered.”

The organization also traps and spays feral cats. She says every animal that is taken to the vet costs about $200.

“What we make from the thrift shop is nice, but it doesn’t do enough to cover all our expenses.”

She said the organization would welcome cash donations, donations to the thrift shop, pet food or pet supplies like old collars and travel crates. People can also leave a bequest to the SPCA in their will.




·      In 2016, QSPCA rehomed 79 cats, two dogs, three rabbits, three pet rats, and two lovebirds.

·      In 2016, QSPCA arranged the low-cost spays or neuters for 80 pets of low income earners

·      In 2016, QSPCA trapped and spayed or neutered 21 feral cats

·      In 2016 QSPCA’s vet bills were over $32,000, all of which had to be fundraised.

·      If you want to volunteer or become a board member, call 902-350-2444.


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Rising from the ashes

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 20, 2017 in Rat News


What would you grab if you had only minutes to rescue some possessions from your burning house?
For Tanya Reid-Emmell, the decision was easy, family photos, particularly one of her late parents embedded with their wedding bands. But as her Chamberlain Township home west of Englehart was razed to the ground during the early morning of Feb. 20, she couldn’t think what else among her belongings she should rescue. Even though fire fighters offered to make one more trip into the house to retrieve things, the lifelong Englehart area resident couldn’t name a single thing.
“You can’t think at a time like that,” she said in an interview with Northern News a week to the day her home was destroyed. “There’s so much (inside a home.) But there’s nothing worth risking someone’s life.”
While Reid-Emmell was able to escape uninjured with most of her pets – three dogs, a cat and two pet rats – one cat remains missing. The likely cause of the fire was build-up in the chimney of the 1920s era remote home.
Having just returned home from square dance practice, Reid-Emmell stocked the stove and went to bed. But sometime around 2 a.m. with an odd burning smell in the air, she checked to find the chimney was very hot and outside there were flames coming from it. Living alone with her pets, she opted to phone a friend for some advice and put some water in the stove in the hope the resulting steam would extinguish any embers higher up in the chimney.
“I didn’t want to go back to sleep,” she said. “But I had blocked the air and figured it had to go out. It can’t go anywhere.”
Her friend eventually came over and together they continued to monitor the situation until by 6 a.m. things took a turn for the worse and emergency rescue crews were called in. Unbeknownst to them, the fire had been gaining a foothold in the attic and was now a raging inferno.
Reid-Emmell said it’s bizarre what goes through your mind at a time like that, as you watch your home burn to the ground. Trying to prevent herself from becoming overcome with grief, she resorted to humor.
“I told myself, I always wanted a skylight in my bedroom,” she said with a wistful laugh. “But there’s no bed, everything is in the basement (now.)”
Despite the best efforts of fire crews who responded within minutes and probably made an estimated 10 trips for water by Reid-Emmell’s estimation, the house was beyond saving.
“A bit of the back wall and chimney are left,” she said, adding there was no fire insurance on the home.
The mother of four said the loss of the family homestead has hit her children hard, but fortunately none were present on the night of the fire. Two are away at college and the other two stay in town with their father.
“At least we had one last good Christmas,” she said, noting the whole family was able to gather there back in December.
The surviving pets, she said, seem a little out of sorts in their new surroundings at her step-mother’s house where she is now staying.
“I think they’re feeling a little lost,” she said.
Through the whole horrific experience, Reid-Emmell said the generosity of family, friends and especially strangers, has been a revelation.
“There are amazing people around here,” she said, “It’s kind of overwhelming. All these strangers helping.
Reid-Emmell said her neighbours in particular have been so helpful, as well as friends who took care of her immediate needs after the fire, providing pet food, and basic necessities such as a toothbrush.
“You don’t even think of food at a time like that,” she said.
Friends as far away as Kirkland Lake have taken up the cause to help her, with local resident  Jessica Loranger having begun to stockpile donations in her basement.
Despite the best intentions of some helpful people, Reid-Emmell is deeply grateful, but noted she hasn’t been able to accept some of their generous donations. “Some people want to give me furniture, but I have nowhere to put it,” she said. “I don’t need things like dishes or pots or pans yet.”
One generous local resident has come forward to offer use of her garage to store donations received so far, but space is limited to store donations.
With the initial shock of the incident receding, Reid-Emmell said she’s beginning to pick up the pieces and is grateful for the ongoing support. Her goal now is to try to gather enough funds for a down payment on a new home somewhere in the region. With just a part-time job as a custodian and another seasonal job, she isn’t sure yet if she’ll be able to arrange the financing for a mortgage for a new home.
The generosity of area residents is already evident on that front, with a gofundme page already set up on the internet and a fundraising dance being organized by relatives for March 18 at the Englehart Legion. Admission will be $5 per person at the door, and there will be a variety of fundraising activities as part of the evening, which begins at 7:30 p.m.
“I’m shocked, I don’t even know how to express my gratitude,” Reid-Emmell said. “It’s one of the great things living in a small town.”

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Pennsylvania reports Seoul virus in pet rat

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 19, 2017 in Rat News

Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy announced that one pet rat in a Pennsylvania home-based breeding facility has tested positive for the Seoul virus.

Pennsylvania map/ National Atlas of the United States
Pennsylvania map/ National Atlas of the United States

The infected Pennsylvania rat was purchased from a Tennessee breeding facility with confirmed Seoul virus infections. The remaining rats in the Pennsylvania facility were humanely euthanized to prevent further spread of the disease.

No human infections of Seoul virus have been confirmed in Pennsylvania at this time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reports there are currently 13 human infections nationwide from this outbreak.

“We are working very closely with the CDC to monitor any Seoul virus activity and prevent further exposure,” Secretary Murphy said. “If you have pet rats you feel could be infected, or if you or your loved ones have been in contact with pet rats and have any symptoms of Seoul virus, you should contact the department at 1-877-PA-HEALTH. While this virus is spread only through infected rats, the health and safety of all Pennsylvanians is our priority.”

Symptoms may include fever, severe headache, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, redness of the eyes, or rash. In severe cases, infection can also lead to acute renal disease.

Seoul virus is carried by wild Norway rats worldwide. People usually become infected when they come in contact with infectious body fluids (blood, saliva, urine) from infected rats or are bitten by them. The virus is not spread between people and cannot be transmitted to or from other types of pets.

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Stroud nostalgia: Mandarin mystery, house break-ins and equal pay disputes

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 18, 2017 in Rat News

SNJ reporter Sam Evans takesa look back through the decades for some Stroud nostalgia


  • IT was decided the Gloucester-Stroud-London rail link would be retained under a new scheme.

The railways board agreed that although the line didn’t necessarily pay its way commercially, it was of social and economic value to the community.

The news was met with great satisfaction amongst Stroud residents who feared they would have to find alternative ways to work.

  • THERE was a mandarin orange mystery for Mrs Gardiner of 8, Upper Summer Street, Stroud.

Her 18-year-old daughter Daphne opened a tin of Mandarins only to find stones and pebbles inside.

Mrs Gardiner reported the incident to the Stroud News and Journal and also informed the health inspector.

It was decided industrial sabotage had occurred and the police announced they were taking the case extremely seriously.

The mandarins were of Japanese origin.


  • TWO house break-ins were thought to be the work of the same Stroud criminal.

An intruder broke into the Safari Caravan premises at Bowbridge, smashing a window in the process.

The offices of Valve Conversions in Thrupp were also entered after someone broke a pain of glass and rifled through a number of draws. Mysteriously nothing was taken in either case but there was damage to several pieces of furniture.

  • SIX women failed in their bid to earn equal pay at the Woodchester factory of Bentley Pianos.

It was established that women were receiving 54.18p an hour whilst men earned 60.20p.

An industrial tribunal in Gloucester heard their case but decided the women were less skilled than the men and did not deserve equal pay.


  • A BID to ban foxhunting across Gloucestershire’s 9,000 acres of farmland was dropped.

However, the county council decided to back any individual tenants who wanted to keep hunts off their lands.

The reason for dropping the bid for a full ban was due to a lack of response from the tenants of smallholdings.

  • AN emergency bunker to protect people from a nuclear attack was given the green light.

It was decided the bunker would be made in Ebley Mill despite protests from a number of residents.


  • CHILDREN at Stroud Valleys School raised over £400 for Comic Relief.

Pupils paid 50p to dress up in clown costumes and took part in a sponsored silence during the lunch hour.

Students escaped lessons and were allowed to play bingo, made their own puppet shows and ran races.

  • THIEVES stole a tiger shark golf bag from Painswick Beacon golf club.

A man left his car unattended for just over an hour but returned to find his golf bag had been stolen.

Police believed the Citroen was entered via the sunroof.

The bag contained a full set of irons, drivers and a wedge that were only three-months-old.


  • A SUPERMARKET shelf stacker who left his pet rats to starve was disqualified from looking after any animals.

The man abandoned the five rats a year before they were found.

Three were dead and the other two were barely alive.

The surviving rats were nursed by to health by members of the RSPCA volunters rom the area.

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Health officials confirm case of Seoul virus in Utah County |

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 17, 2017 in Rat News

PROVO — The Utah County Health Department and Utah Department of Health confirmed Tuesday a local case of Seoul virus infection, which has popped up in 14 other states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus is a rare type of hantavirus carried by rats and a case in Utah County is related to pet rats, according to the Utah County Health Department. CDC officials said last week the source of the virus comes from a pet breeding facility and that rats in Utah were among states where rats might be infected.

The CDC first announced back on Jan. 18 that eight people had been infected with the virus in Illinois and Wisconsin. Since then cases have spread throughout the midwest and southeast U.S. and into Colorado and Utah.

The CDC recommended that those who have had recent or current illness after handling rats should get their blood tested.

Symptoms of the virus may include fever, intense headache, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, nausea, flushing of the face, rash and inflammation and redness of the eyes. Those symptoms may vary from person to person, according to the CDC.

Symptoms typically begin within one to two weeks of exposure to the virus. While most symptoms of the virus are minor, Utah Department of Health officials said it has the possibility of leading to kidney failure.

Officials suggested owners of pet rats or anyone who comes into contact with the rodent should wash their hands thoroughly with soap after handling rats, keep animals away from where food is served or where people might bathe. Gloves and a face mask are also suggested for any cleaning, disinfecting bedding and covering any cuts or scratches before handling a pet.

Carter Williams

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Utah County resident suffers rare hantavirus infection

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 14, 2017 in Rat News

PROVO, Utah — The Utah County Health Department reports a resident of the county has been infected with a rare type of hantavirus called “Seoul virus.”

“This wasn’t just your average pet owner,” said Steve Mickelson, Utah County Health Department Director of Nurses. “This is a person who no longer breeds pets, but has in the past.”

Seoul virus is carried by rats, and the Centers for Disease Control recently identified pet rats as the source of a multi-state outbreak in 15 states, UCHD said in a news release issued Tuesday.

Seoul virus symptoms in humans include fever, intense headache, back and abdominal pain, chills, blurred vision, nausea, flushing of the face, rash and inflammation and redness of the eyes, according to UCHD. Symptoms usually begin within one to two weeks of exposure, but, in rare cases, may take up to eight weeks to develop.

Most people infected with Seoul virus won’t have symptoms, UCHD said, and others will have only mild symptoms. In rare cases, a Seoul virus infection can lead to a type of renal (kidney) disease.

The CDC and UCHD are investigating this and other recent Seoul virus infections related to a home-based rat breeding facility in Wisconsin. Two people who operated that facility were infected and hospitalized in December. Those two people, the CDC said, had purchased rats from animal suppliers in Wisconsin and Illinois. Six other people who tested positive for Seoul virus infection were linked to two ratteries in Illinois.

“Pet stores bring them in from all over,” Mickelson said. However, not all pet stores buy pet rats from breeders. Some shop owners prefer breeding their own pet rats for safety purposes. However, most pet shops do buy feeding rats from breeders. Feeding rats are used as food for other animals, usually reptiles.

Further investigation by the CDC, along with state and local health departments, revealed infected rats may have been distributed or received in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.

“Individuals with rats as pets are encouraged to follow health and cleaning precautions. We are working with the CDC and UDOH to protect the
health of Utah County residents,” said UCHD Director Ralph Clegg in the news release.

The UCHD offered the following tips for avoiding becoming ill with Seoul virus and other diseases carried by rodents:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling pets or areas where pets
    have been.
  • Keep small pets and their cages out of kitchens or other areas where food is served.
  • Pet cages, bedding, toys, food or water containers should be cleaned away from areas
    where food is served or people may bathe.
  • Use gloves and a face mask for cleaning.
  • Avoid creating dust from fecal materials by wetting down bedding and disinfecting it.
  • Do not sweep or vacuum up rodent urine, droppings, or nests as this creates airborne
  • Cover cuts and scratches before handling your pet.
  • Don’t keep small pets in a child’s bedroom, especially children younger than five years.
  • Don’t snuggle or kiss small pets, touch your mouth after handling small pets, or eat or
    drink around them.

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Rat pack: Rat Haven helps to shelter unwanted rodents – Prince …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 12, 2017 in Rat News

Stephanie Costain started PEI’s Rat Haven after she adopted her first rat a year ago as a place for pet rats that are surrendered — or otherwise in need of a new home.

“I really liked him, found out that he needed a friend, started doing research and they’re like little puppy dogs, basically,” said Costain of her first rat. “It just kind of blew up from there.”

Today, Costain currently has 12 rats in her care and said she won’t stop there.

‘Not scary at all’

“They’re great companion animals. They’re affectionate, they’re lovable. I’ve never been aggressively bitten by any rat I’ve taken in. They’re just completely adorable,” she said.

Rat Haven

Stephanie Costain holds Phoenix, one of the 12 rats she’s currently caring for. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

As part of the haven, Costain fosters or adopts out rats, and help them get medical attention if necessary.

“Unfortunately they do have a short life span. They have very, very sensitive respiratory systems so you’ve got to be careful,” said Costain. “They’re pretty expensive for medical funds.” 

‘They’re extremely intelligent and not scary at all’

Costain has started an online fundraiser to help with the medical costs associated with rescued rats.

Ultimately, she hopes to change the way people view rats.

Rat Haven

Costain’s ultimate goal is to change the way people view rats. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

“They’re not the dirty, disgusting creatures that remind you of the black plague. They’re cute and can be funny at times, and they’re extremely intelligent and not scary at all.”

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Seoul Virus in Northeast Wisconsin | News | WSAU

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 11, 2017 in Rat News

MANITOWOC, WI (WTAQ-WLUK) — A Brown County woman has tested positive for the Seoul virus after visiting a Manitowoc woman’s rattery, who first tested positive for the virus earlier this year.

That brings the total to three people in Wisconsin with the Seoul virus.

This is the first known outbreak involving pet rats in the United States.

Shasta Brunette, of Manitowoc, and her son tested positive for the virus after acquiring six infected rats from an Illinois rattery.

Brunette has four new pet rats. Four is a far cry from the 92 she had a month ago that health officials ordered her to put down.

“It was devastating,” Brunette told FOX 11. “They were my pets. Everyone had a name. It was hard, but I did what they told me I had to do.”

Brunette found out she had infected rats after she became sick. She spent 11 days in the hospital.

“A fever I couldn’t get rid of, I ended up with a rash on my hands and feet, my blood pressure was real low so I couldn’t stand, I was real dizzy,” said Brunette.

Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong until Brunette told them she was a rat breeder. She recommended having her rats tested for viruses.

“We gave our blood, we had to wait a week to get the results and then they decided right away that they were going to put my whole rattery down,” said Brunette.

People can only get the virus from being in close proximity to infected rats.

19-year-old Pamela Boutin of Green Bay found out last month she also had the virus after visiting Brunette’s home.

“If I had anything it was a headache,” Boutin told FOX 11.

Boutin had three of her 29 rats test positive for the virus. Health officials didn’t make her put down her healthy rats, but Boutin has to keep testing them every four weeks until there is one fully-healthy round of testing.

With a testing fee of $10.75 per rat, Boutin isn’t sure how long her rattery will last.

“These are my pets, but I just can’t wrap my mind around keeping something here that is infected that could harm a child or an adult or someone that wants to adopt a sweet, friendly rat from us,” said Boutin. “It’s just not responsible.”

“People with 100 rats, you’re looking at over $1,000 every four weeks,” said Brunette. “That’s not feasible.”

Brunette says the 92 rats she lost had a value of $2,200. She doesn’t plan to ever have that many rats again, but could start another rattery if she is positive the rats are healthy.

“I’m afraid to,” said Brunette. “I don’t ever want to do this again.”

The state health department did not have anyone available for an interview for this story.

Its web site says there are 17 people in the United States who’ve tested positive for the virus, including the three from our area.

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