Overrun by estimated 1000 rats or more, Critter Café Rescue shut down by …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on May 27, 2015 in Rat News | Subscribe

FRUITPORT TOWNSHIP, MI – Authorities helped Christine Lea Bishop find adoptive homes for rabbits, ducks and cats Tuesday, May 26, before barring her from her home and animal rescue operation.

Bishop has run Critter Cafe Rescue at the home she rents, 5818 Airline Rd., for years. It recently was condemned by the Fruitport Township building inspector, in part because of a problem with an out-of-control rat population there.

“I’m doing everything I can to get the animals out,” Bishop said. She didn’t know exactly how many animals were in the building but guessed 150-200, including baby rats.

She then added there were additionally three colonies of rats living nearby outside the building.

On Tuesday, clusters of black-and-white rats could be seen poking out their heads from the bottom of the building and from underneath furniture in the yard. Muskegon County Sheriff Animal Control Officer Tiffany Peterson estimated more than 1,000 rats live in the building and on the property.

“You can’t see inside the walls,” Peterson said. “She’s got cages in back there that are full.”

The population of rats originated with a cage of domestic or pet rats that was left outside the building sometime this winter, Bishop said. She tried to feed the rats and get them birth control but admitted having some difficulty.

“This is not (animal) abuse,” she said. “This is an unfortunate situation that I need help with.”

She faulted Fruitport Township Supervisor Brian Werschem for targeting her with various code violations over the years.

“It’s just one thing after another with them,” she said.

Bishop lives right across the street from the brand-new Fruitport Township Hall, where Werschem works. And on the other side of the street, Werschem told the other side of the story.

“Three weeks ago we got a 911 phone call from someone that said, ‘I was just at the Critter Café to adopt a bird, and there was an unbelievable rat infestation.'”

Werschem said the matter was referred to Muskegon County Animal Control. Peterson visited the building and said she was alarmed at the conditions.

A search warrant was executed, and the building was condemned, Werschem said.

“There were rats feeding on dead rats,” he said.

For the last seven days, Bishop was not allowed to spend nights in the building, but only to go in and out during the days to care for animals and find them homes, Werschem said.

The legitimacy of the animal rescue operation has been disputed for several years, going back to 2012. At that time, Bishop started an online petition and received some public support. The Fruitport Township Board of Appeals approved a variance so she could continue to operate.

But Werschem said she ignored the terms of the variance, which restricted her from keeping cats and having more than 80 animals on the property.

Bishop said she has done good work over the years.

“We’ve adopted, rehabbed, assisted with about 4,300 animals to date,” she said. “If anything, we’re an asset to the community.”

Peterson said the problem is that Bishop didn’t follow state and local rules while rescuing those animals.

“The rescue has to be licensed by the state,” Peterson said. “Christine means well, she really does, it’s just sometimes you get addicted to something and you lose control of the situation. … We’ve all tried to help her to make the situation better, not just for her, but for the animals.”

Peterson said the larger animals were cleared from the building by Tuesday evening. The rats will be caught in live traps and then passed on to shelters, she said.

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