You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Bay Area woman breeding, releasing rats raises concern


Authorities are trying to keep track of a San Francisco woman who was breeding rats in her room at a residential hotel then releasing them in public parks. But they say their hands are tied as far as trying to stop her.

She's been nicknamed "Rat Girl" by the people who've followed her behavior over the years. The situation is no laughing matter, however, because her affection for rats could endanger her health and the health of the Bay Area public.

Video shot in April of 2011 of a room in a San Francisco hotel packed with piles of filthy clothes, a dirty mattress and dozens of rats burrowing in and out of the debris was obtained on Thursday.

More popular and trending stories

Animal Care and Control officials say the then-resident, a 43 year-old woman known as "Erica J.," bred hundreds of rats in the room. By the end of May 2011, San Francisco's Public Health Department said it had exterminated a thousand rats in the room and neighboring areas.

"The rats have actually burrowed into other people's rooms," said Animal Care & Control Captain Denise Bongiovanni. "They can carry disease; they can carry parasites."

"I was immediately concerned for the well-being of Erica," Bongiovanni said. "I believe that there's a serious underlying mental health issue that needs to be addressed and it seems to be unresolved."

Bongiovanni said that in the last three years, Erica J.'s social worker, landlords and members of the public have reported her for breeding the rodents.

At one point, Bongiovanni said Erica J. lived under a Japantown pedestrian bridge and brought her rats with her.

"She had the rats living off of a cart and apparently some of them had escaped and were burrowing into an area near a pedestrian bridge," said Bongiovanni. "Our officer went out and tried to locate them and tried to collect them, but was unable to at the time."

The latest incident happened May 8. Bongiovanni said a passerby reported Erica J. was living with at least eight rats in a park. Video shows rats eating out of a plastic bowl filled with dog food.

"The officer that responded noted that they had been there for some time. They had actually sort of dug a maze and had areas to tunnel and burrow," said Bongiovanni. "We collected seven, unfortunately I believe one of them was really sick and died in transport. We impounded the rest."

Bongiovanni said the department has been able to adopt out some of Erica J.'s domesticated rats over the years. Sick and feral ones have either been euthanized or exterminated. Bongiovanni said the woman has surrendered some animals but suspects she hides others.

"She has come across as being very anxious and always concerned that she could keep a couple of rats," said Bongiovanni.

Animal Care & Control Department head Rebecca Katz told KTVU her department often has trouble tracking down Erica J. and said prosecuting her under the municipal code is unlikely to solve the problem. Bongiovanni said the woman needs treatment to prevent her behavior from harming herself, others and the rats.

"We understand that Erica has housing again in the city and I can only imagine that this situation is probably going to continue wherever she lives until she gets the help that she needs," said Bongiovanni.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in News

Amateur Florida python hunters can win prizes
Amateur Florida python hunters can win prizes

Catch a snake, win a shirt. And perhaps more. That’s the pitch being made by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which on Monday introduced a “Python Pickup Program.” According to the Tampa Bay Times, anyone who captures a python in the wild can submit a photo of the snake they caught in order to win...
7 things to know now: Arkansas executions; O'Reilly speaks; Hannity accusations walked back
7 things to know now: Arkansas executions; O'Reilly speaks; Hannity accusations walked back

Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and world today. 1. Arkansas executions: Arkansas executed two inmates hours apart on Monday night after a U.S. district judge first issued a stay, then lifted it about an hour later. Jack Jones was executed first, then attorneys for Marcel Williams questioned whether Jones suffered unnecessarily...
Bill O’Reilly breaks silence on podcast
Bill O’Reilly breaks silence on podcast

Bill O’Reilly broke his silence on Monday night, telling listeners during his 19-minute, “No Spin News” podcast on his website that “I am sad that I am not on television anymore.” >> Read more trending news It was the first time O’Reilly had addressed listeners after he was fired from Fox News last week...
Woman claims Fitbit burned her arm after it ‘exploded’
Woman claims Fitbit burned her arm after it ‘exploded’

A Wisconsin woman said she suffered second-degree burns on her arm after her Fitbit tracker “exploded” while she read a book, ABC News reported. >> Read more trending news Dina Mitchell said she had owned her Fitbit Flex 2 for about two weeks when the fitness tracking device allegedly caught fire on her arm Tuesday night. "...
UPDATE: Mauling victim, dog dead in Dayton attack
UPDATE: Mauling victim, dog dead in Dayton attack

Police dispatched to Middle Street for a report of a man yelling for help and dogs barking Officials quarentined, shot and killed a pit bull, according to police  Officials confirmed the dog mauling victim died UPDATE @7:49 a.m.  The victim killed in the dog mauling attack has been identified as an “innocent” middle-age male who...
More Stories