Since November 2007, Vancouver-based Little Mischief Rescue has focused on rat and ferret rescue and welfare. Our story begins with this entry on the rescue’s blog:
… got an email from the Calgary Animal Control. A rat was brought into the province of Alberta illegally (rats are illegal in Alberta and are usually killed right away) and the owners ended up voluntarily surrendering her to a shelter in Calgary. The shelter has no choice but to euthanize her if we are unable to secure an out of province place for her to go… So Simone phoned around trying to arrange a quarantine foster as well as airport pick up. Matilda, the little rattie girl, will arrive in Vancouver on Friday.
Matilda’s the rat in the picture — pretty cute for a rodent, right?
Her owners, according to the Calgary Herald, had recently moved from British Columbia. They became aware of Alberta’s stringent rat control laws from news coverage of two dead rats being found in Calgary and an ensuing door-to-door investigation.
Rat possession is taken very seriously by the Alberta authorities — “It’s absolutely illegal to have a rat in your possession in Alberta,” said bylaw chief Bill Bruce. The fine is in the thousands.”
Bruce had this to say about Matilda’s free trip to freedom in Vancouver: “This animal will be transported back by a volunteer, so there’s absolutely no cost to the city of Calgary or the taxpayer on this one.”
As for those dead rats, they turned out to be food intended for a finicky snake:
“One resident . . . did confess that they had purchased these rats frozen from a pet store, which is perfectly legal, as food for their rather large snake,” Bruce said. “But it wouldn’t eat them. Hence, they threw them out.”
Back in September 2009, Alberta Premier Ed Steilmach stressed the importance of an Alberta Free Of Live Rats:
suggesting this unique status heightens the international reputation of the province’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry … the premier said the province boasts about its rat-free status when it discusses farming issues overseas.
“You won’t have any rat feces in the food that we produce, no contamination,” is a message that has been taken to Japan, China and Europe, Stelmach said.
He added that controlling the rat population also lessens the destruction of buildings and the spread of disease.
“Accumulated, it positions Alberta very well,” Stelmach said. “I have great confidence in our pest control people because they have years of experience and they’ll get every rat that there is the province.”
Alberta’s government website has a page devoted to The History of Rat Control In Alberta, which attributes the province’s success to things like climate, geography, and fast response when rats first began to appear there around 1950:
“The rat control program was initiated as soon as rats entered the province. The people never became accustomed to living with rats and never became complacent.”
[Image: Little Mischief Rescue Blog]