Cleanup of home with 200 pet rats gains approval
Crow Wing County was notified of the property by someone who was concerned about a possible animal hoarding situation.
BRAINERD — A small home with more than 200 pet rats in Trommald was declared a public health nuisance.
“I’m sorry, did you say pet rats,” asked Crow Wing County commissioner Doug Houge. “OK, that’s a first.”
Crow Wing County public health reported doing site visits at the home as well as looking at GIS images of the property on Fawn Street in Trommald. Commissioner Steve Barrows asked if Trommald had a limit on the number of pets.
Stephanie Shook, assistant county attorney who has been helping with public health nuisances, said there didn’t appear to be an ordinance related to restricting the number of pets.
Commissioner Paul Koering, attending virtually from Fort Myers, Florida, asked for clarification for a number he thought was lost in the online communication.
“Did I mishear? I think I heard it twice,” Koering said. “Am I mishearing that — 200 rats?”
Shook confirmed the spoken number.
Bethany Imgrund, Community Services, told the County Board Tuesday, April 11, the county was notified of the property by someone who was concerned about a possible animal hoarding situation. A subsequent site visit found an odor described as a high level of ammonia and animal fecal matter.
The odor was reported to be strongest near the front door but depending on weather conditions reports indicate the odor is evident beyond the property’s boundaries and out to the road. In declaring the property a public health nuisance, the county noted the strong odor “likely due to the large amount of pet rats which does affect those in the neighboring residences.”
Imgrund said there was also a growing accumulation of garbage outside the house, which the county requested to be cleaned up. The resident reportedly did clean up the garbage, Imgrund said, but ongoing concerns remained because the resident doesn’t have garbage service.
Also at issue is a reported accumulation of household trash, in bags, outside the home but not protected from insects or exterior rodents.
“I have requested access into the home on multiple occasions to establish that the living conditions for the resident and animals are appropriate and that they're well maintained and cared for,” Imgrund said. “We have been denied entry thus far. We're seeking permission from the board to abate the source of the strong odor as well as ensure that the garbage is cleaned up.”
Shook said this case is a little different as the homeowner died in December of 2021 and the current resident is not believed to have a lease. The resident was given notice as the property is in foreclosure. In Minnesota, there is a redemption period, typically six months, but there can be an option to extend it, where an individual can pay fees and bring the mortgage up to date to keep the home from a foreclosure sale, known as a sheriff’s sale. The redemption period for the Trommald property ends April 23. Shook said the Minnesota Housing Agency indicated they would take over cleanup after that date.
The property is currently officially owned by the Minnesota Housing Agency, but Shook told the board the agency can’t do anything until the redemption period ends.
Imgrund said the number of rats was reduced previously as they moved 160 rats last year, leaving the occupant with about 40 but then the individual returned to the previous number, the estimated 200 or more than that. According to reports the county received, the cages are lined with some type of cloth and fecal matter is disposed of by flushing it down the toilet and then washing and reusing the cloth material.
“Public Health has worked with Occupant since initial site visit on March 3, 2023 to connect them to resources that may improve their current living situation and health as well as connected with rescues to rehome some of the pet population, however, Occupant has failed to initiate our offered assistance,” the county stated in the nuisance declaration.
Public health did provide an enclosed garbage receptacle to the resident March 29. A site visit April 3 found it was nearly full but garbage remained on the ground outside any containers, the county reported. A letter notice was posted on the door for the resident earlier this month with a deadline of April 10. Public health requested access to assess the source of the odor and living conditions for the resident and the pet rats.
In declaring the residence a public health nuisance Tuesday in a unanimous vote, the County Board stated the large number of animals in the small space “leads to increased potential of the spread of diseases that are injurious and a threat to public health.”
The declaration gives the county the ability to clean up the Fawn Street property and assess the cost against the property.
Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @DispatchBizBuzz.