Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rat-Pack Rat Pack-Rat

An interesting, but somewhat obscure, news item from Petaluma, California, just north of San Francisco: Roger Dier was cited for misdemeanor animal cruelty for keeping more than 1,000 pet rats in his one-bedroom house. Dier has had previous brushes with the law, though, including prison for armed robbery. More notably, in 1963 Dier's home in southern California was the hideout for Barry Keenan, Joe Amsler, and John Irwin — the kidnapers of Frank Sinatra, Jr., in the saga that became the movie Stealing Sinatra. I thus think it appropriate we dub Roger Dier "The Rat-Pack Rat Pack-Rat."

There's more to the story, of course. Animal services officials in Petaluma euthanized the majority of the rats, noting that many were missing eyeballs, had teeth growing into the opposite jaw, had huge abscesses and open wounds, or were starving. Beyond that, the adult rats were almost completely unsocialized, and thus not suitable pets. The sad truth is that euthanizing these creatures was the kindest action possible.

Nevertheless, rat lovers who had been organizing an adoption effort for the animals were furious. I had rats (the variety known as "hooters" — because of the noise they make, not any anatomical attribute) as pets when I was a child, and they were delightful, other than the smell if you didn't change the litter six times a day. However, I would not dream of taking on one of these rats in the condition they were in. The city of Petaluma did the right thing in rescuing as many of the younger rats as possible, but also in euthanizing the adults.

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