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Pet rats found dumped inside box with Polish messages scrawled on it

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 15, 2015 in Rat Answers

TWO pet rats were dumped at an Edinburgh shopping centre inside a cardboard box with messages thought to be in Polish scrawled over it.

The Scottish SPCA are appealing for information after the animals were abandoned at the St James Centre on Wednesday March 11.

A woman was seen in the toilets leaving the coloured box in the toilet area.

In January, a dog was left outside a Scots train station with a suitcase of his belongings.

The two male domestic rats are now in the care of the charity’s Edinburgh Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Balerno.

Inspector Emma Phillips said, “Security workers at the centre were able to see a woman on CCTV cameras go into the toilets with the box at around 5pm on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately there wasn’t a clear picture of her face as she seemed to be aware of the cameras.

“Both the rats are in good condition which suggests they had been well looked after until this point.

“Inside the box was a carrier bag and rabbit food. On the box itself there was a lot of writing which appears to be in Polish.

“We would urge anyone who recognises the rats to get in touch with us.

“It’s sad these animals have been dumped like this and we’ll continue to care for them until we can find them the home they deserve.”

Abandoning and causing an animal unnecessary suffering animal is an offence under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 and anyone found guilty of doing so can expect to be banned from keeping animals for a fixed period or life.

Anyone with information is being urged to contact the Scottish SPCA Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999.

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Thornton pet store owners charged with animal cruelty

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 14, 2015 in Rat Answers

Three family members who run the Thornton pet store Jurassic Pets have been charged with nearly 100 counts of animal cruelty for allegedly abusing and killing rodents and reptiles at their store.

Court documents show that a total of 97 misdemeanor animal cruelty counts were filed during the weekend and Monday against Kenneth Mark Kubic (21 counts), Lynn Denise Kubic (38 counts) and Brian James Kubic (38 counts).

Jess Redman, assistant district attorney for Adams County, wouldn’t confirm the charges because he said he hadn’t yet had the chance to talk to the defendants.

The investigation, which culminated in December with Thornton police executing a search warrant on the business at 10380 Washington St., was prompted by an investigation conducted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The animal rights group claimed Tuesday that the store’s staff attempted to kill domestic mice and rats by “whacking them against surfaces.” PETA also claimed that rodents and reptiles at Jurassic Pets were frozen alive and were routinely denied water.

The group posted video and photos of the alleged abuse on its website.

“It’s too late for the animals who were bashed and frozen to death at Jurassic Pets, but the Kubic family must now answer for such grotesquely cruel conduct,” PETA senior vice president of cruelty investigations Daphna Nachminovitch said.

Reached by phone at the Thornton store Tuesday, Brian Kubic said he was not aware of the charges and had no further comment.

PETA said it also documented abuse at a second business owned by the Kubic family — Willards Rodent Factory, a breeding facility in Adams County — but that the Adams County Sheriff’s Office has yet to take action.

The Kubics are set for arraignment April 6.

John Aguilar: 303-954-1695, or

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Pet rats left to die on stranger’s driveway

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 13, 2015 in Rat Answers
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    England fears invasion of giant Scottish rats

    Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 12, 2015 in Rat Answers

    Fears are growing that giant ginger rats will soon invade England from Scotland, after they were spotted scavenging between the borders.

    The giant rats got their reddish tint after pet rats were released and then bred with the wild ones. In most situations officials would put down poison to kill the rodents; however they are mainly situated in Lochpark Industrial Estate, Hawick, just 35km miles from England.

    If officials put poison down, they run the risk of also killing pet cats and dogs as well.

    There are huge holes clearly visible under bushes, where it is thought that the rats have been burrowing towards England, until they eventually cross the border.

    Some locals are not helping the situation as they have apparently been feeding the animals, outraging the others who want the rodents dead.

    Colin Easton, owns a local tyre dealing company, and says he sees dozens of the rates every day, he says, “I’ve seen white rats as well as ginger ones. Someone from the council came up but I’m not sure what stage they are at.”

    One local said: “The place is infested with the rats. I used to walk my dog along there but no longer do so because I was afraid of someone putting poison down. The problem really needs to be dealt with. I think someone has been releasing pet rats into the wild and they have been breeding with the wild ones.”

    A spokesman for the Scottish Borders Council said: “The council was first made aware of rat activity in the Lochpark area in mid-February. Officers have investigated all complaints received and have been monitoring the area along with officers from our pest control service.

    “Due to the risk of harming other wildlife and pets, we are unable to bait the area.”

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    Giant ginger Scottish rats run amok at Cheltenham

    Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 11, 2015 in Rat Answers

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    Invasion of the giant ginger rats

    Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 10, 2015 in Rat Answers

    The huge rodents are running wild in Lochpark Industrial Estate, Hawick, sparking fears they could spread and wreak havoc.

    Sightings of the beasts have been reported daily, and members of the public have even been feeding them on a regular basis. 

    It is believed they have turned a ginger colour because domestic rats which have been released have been breeding with wild Scottish rats.

    Local businessman Colin Easton, who trades tyres in the industrial estate, has seen dozens of rats and claims they are still scuttling around despite numerous tip offs to the council. 

    He said: “I’ve seen loads of rats, dozens at a time – it’s a real worry. 

    “I’ve seen white ones as well as ginger ones. 

    “Someone from the council has been up but I’m not sure what stage they are at.” 

    One amateur pest controller said he had been killing rats on the site for months with the local council insisting it cannot exterminate the creatures due to fear of killing other animals. 

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    New study finds that rats didn’t spread the black death, gerbils did — contradicting long-held belief

    Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 9, 2015 in Rat Answers


    WASHINGTON — After nearly eight centuries of accusations for spreading the bubonic plague, scientists say they have compelling evidence to exonerate the much-maligned black rat. In the process, they’ve identified a new culprit: gerbils.

    It’s always the cute ones you have to watch out for, isn’t it?

    According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, climate data dating back to the 14th century contradicts the commonly held notion that European plague outbreaks were caused by a reservoir of disease-carrying fleas hosted by the continent’s rat population.

    “For this, you would need warm summers, with not too much precipitation,” Nils Christian Stenseth, an author of the study, told the BBC. “. . . And we have looked at the broad spectrum of climatic indices, and there is no relationship between the appearance of plague and the weather.”

    Instead, the fearsome “Black Death,” as the epidemic was known, seemed curiously tied to the climate in Asia. Analysis of 15 tree-ring records, which document yearly weather conditions, shows that Europe always experienced plague outbreaks after central Asia had a wet spring followed by a warm summer — terrible conditions for black rats, but ideal for Asia’s gerbil population. Those sneaky rodents and their bacteria-ridden fleas then hitched a ride to Europe via the Silk Road, arriving on the continent a few years later to wreak epidemiological havoc.

    The findings absolve Europe’s black rats of responsibility for the deaths of more than 100 million people in the “second plague pandemic,” which began with the Black Death in the mid-14th century and recurred until the 1800s. They also explain why the disease popped up intermittently century after century, rather than lingering on the continent as long as rats were around to carry it.

    This isn’t the first time scientists have challenged popular understanding of the disease. Last year, researchers examining plague DNA found in 25 14th-century skeletons said they found evidence that the disease was airborne rather than distributed via flea bites.

    So Stenseth says his team will fact-check their findings by analyzing DNA from a variety of ancient European skeletons. If the samples show significant genetic variation across time, that would indicate successive outbreaks were caused by newly arrived waves of the disease rather than a resurgence from the continent’s rat reservoir.

    “If we’re right, we’ll have to rewrite that part of history,” Stenseth said.

    And hundreds of elementary school classrooms will have to rethink their class pet.

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    'Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience' will please Fawlty fans

    Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 6, 2015 in Rat Answers

    Germans were mocked. Rats were chased. Racing bets were made, then unsuccessfully concealed. And Sybil Fawlty exploded many an eardrum while shrieking at her beleaguered (but hardly blameless) husband: “BAAAA-SIL!”

    It wasn’t quite like stepping into an episode of Fawlty Towers, but it’s probably as close as you’re going to get.

    For a British series that only ran for two seasons in the mid-to-late 1970s, John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers has had an incredible, indelible impact on the comedy consciousness. So much so that some wise souls decided to create a dinner theatre experience based on the show, which has now been imported to Toronto via London’s West End.

    Running until April 19 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience puts attendees at the mercy of Basil Fawlty, his wife Sybil and their English-challenged waiter, Manuel. The idea is that we, the audience, are dining in the hotel’s restaurant, with comic vignettes going on around us as we eat.

    Fans of the classic BBC show, created by Monty Python alumnus Cleese and his then-wife Connie Booth, will love the spot-on characterizations by the U.K.-based cast: Benedict Holme has John Cleese’s rubbery physicality down pat as Basil (even if he looks a bit like a young Eric Idle), Alison Pollard-Mansergh’s accent and attitude is utterly Sybil and Leigh Kelly perfectly channels Manuel’s mix of innocence and incompetence.

    It’s not dinner theatre in the traditional sense, though. In fact it’s probably best to look at Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience as a so-so dinner that has some theatrical antics built into it, rather than a full-fledged show with a meal component.

    Since the performance is two-thirds improvised and involves audience interaction, the quality will likely vary depending on the temperature of the room and how “on” the actors are on any given night. Our performance featured bursts of manic energy offset by a tendency to not draw attention that’s typical of many Canadians. (Or, as Basil called us, “moose-hunting, hockey-obsessed, maple syrup-licking ex-colonial layabouts!”)

    The show’s scripted bits are mostly imported from Fawlty Towers, the series: Manuel’s pet rat gets loose in the dining area, Basil makes a horse racing bet that he tries to conceal from Sybil, false teeth end up in someone’s soup and a head injury leads to a goose-stepping tirade against Germans. It’s all very well done by a cast that has carefully studied the source material, but those who’ve never known the genius that is Fawlty Towers might not find it quite as endearing.

    The improv moments weren’t as consistently successful – perhaps in part because the cast has to spread their performance across 13 tables while dodging servers dropping off plates of food – although every table did receive some individual attention. I told my dining companion that I’d be singled out as a dude with a shaved head, and, sure enough, Sybil came by at one point to adjust her hair in the reflection from my gleaming pate. Later, my friend spilled a glass of red wine on our white tablecloth, a golden opportunity for a dressing-down that was only gently seized upon by the cast.

    And while the London version of the show is staged in an actual hotel dining room, the Sony Centre’s slightly cramped O’Keefe Lounge, with its black curtains and black ceiling, doesn’t exactly exude the ambience of a tatty British inn. You’ll need to bring imagination as well as an appetite.

    The three-course meal consists of soup (for us, it was a tasty, if salty, butternut squash), chicken with carrots, green beans and mashed potatoes (a tofu option is available) and a chocolate-topped shortbread dessert. All passable, but far from gourmet. And with most tickets ringing in at just under $100 a pop, not including tip or alcoholic beverages, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience is a slightly dicey value for the money.

    Still, if you can round up a table of like-minded Fawlty fans who are willing to lay out the cash, it could make for a very fun and memorable evening. Just remember to check your soup before you taste it. And don’t mention the war.

    For tickets and info, visit

    Twitter: @stevetilley


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    Quiz: how well do you know books?

    Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 5, 2015 in Rat Answers

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    The Black Plague Was Probably Caused By Cute Gerbils, Not Dirty Rats

    Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 4, 2015 in Rat Answers

    The Black Plague Was Probably Caused By Cute Gerbils, Not Dirty Rats

    Conventional wisdom has it that the Black Death was spread throughout Europe by nasty, evil dirty, disease-carrying rats. Well, prepare to have your mind blown (and find a new pet): according to a new study, gerbils are more likely to blame.

    The Black Death — a mid-14th century epidemic of the bubonic plague that killed a significant proportion of the European population and had a lasting effect on modern civilization — has long been blamed on rats. They jumped on ships and carried disease-ridden fleas around the continent, which then jumped on humans and transmitted the plague — or so the story goes.

    According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, gerbils — specifically, scary-as-fuck sounding giant gerbils — are more likely to have been the cause. Scientists studied tree rings from Europe to determine historical weather patterns, and then cross-referenced that information with historical records of plague outbreaks.

    They found that plague outbreaks correlated positively with warmer, wetter weather in Asia, but not Europe — meaning that plague was mostly likely incubated in Asia, and then carried over the Silk Road into Europe, via gerbils. So next time you think a gerbil would make a fun pet for your seven-year-old, remember: it’s got the blood of 200 million Europeans on its cute little paws. [BBC]

    Image credit: Shutterstock/Jearu

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