Rat Retreat , Inc . : Nonprofit Idaho corporation extends helping hand to …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 16, 2014 in Rat News | Subscribe

    BOISE – Respect the rat.

    That’s the approach people should take toward the rodent that may need an image makeover, but actually makes a loveable pet, according to Dawn Burke – president of The Rat Retreat, Inc. a nonprofit shelter where 16 rats reside.

     “Rats have a bad rap because of our history books,” Burke said. “Anything you read about rats in our history book, it all comes back the (bubonic) plague, and dirt, and illness.”

    While that generalization may largely have held true centuries ago in Europe for wild rats that carried bubonic plague-packing fleas – reportedly resulting in the deaths of millions of people – Burke said domestic rats in the United States in the 21st century have been deemed by local health officials as not being carriers of communicable diseases.

    “With the same respect as they would with dogs or cats, or with any other animal,” Burke said, in regard to how rats should be treated by human beings.  

    Instead, rats oftentimes are valued for their captive roles in the food chain.

“Ninety percent of the rats are bred for snake food,” Burke said.

That rats oftentimes are born to be snake food frequently leads to health problems for the rodents, Burke said.

“One of the main things that we would like to see is that people stop feeding live rats to snakes,” she said. “You know, that would solve half the problem with rats right there… Rats are so much like us – that’s why we use them in labs. And, we’re feeding an animal that’s so much like us, we’re feeding them alive to another animal.

“People say ‘Well, it’s nature,’ but it’s not natural to put an animal in an enclosure with another animal that they know is gonna eat it,” she continued.

The fear created for the rats in that situation “is a form of torture,” that leads to cancer and other illnesses in the animals, Burke said.

At The Rat Retreat – located in the home of Burke and her husband, Don – the rodents living there are given medication, clean cages, adequate food and water, and interaction with other rats and humans. Dawn said that the rats are engaged in recreational activities.

“Get them running and playing and having fun,” she said, referring to activities in a play area of The Rat Retreat. Burke calls the place a “sanctuary,” that takes care of previously unwanted pet rats.

Since people sometimes decide they don’t want rats as pets, the rodents are transferred in the majority of cases to The Rat Retreat from the Idaho Humane Society. Other times, individuals will contact the Rat Retreat directly to bring unwanted pet rats there. From there, Burke said, the rats at The Rat Retreat are sometimes adopted out, sometimes go to one operating “foster home,” and at other times live out their lives at The Rat Retreat.

“We really need more foster homes,” she said. “There are more rats out there than we have room for.”

The Burkes – who started The Rat Retreat, Inc., with Idaho articles of incorporation in November 2008 – are looking at the possibility that additional monetary donations could eventually lead to the construction of a “brick and mortar,” version of The Rat Retreat other than its current facility in the Burkes’ home.

Currently, donations to the nonprofit entity cover the $200 monthly cost of running the facility, Burke said.

“We’re not promoting rats as pets, we’re not promoting their breeding,” she said. “We’re just asking that they get the same care and respect that we give other animals; that we not be allowed to treat them as objects and remember that they are live creatures and need to be treated with that respect.”

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