Think you have troubles:
A Beverly Hills neighborhood is being inundated with white rats, the result of a dilapidated home being shut down a week ago.
Lisa Young, who provided me the photo with today’s blog, said rats have now invaded 10 houses, including some where the elderly or young children live.
She sent me another photo that I won’t publish. It shows a yard filled with rat corpses, all shot by a frustrated neighbor.
How did all this happen? A good deed, of course.
You may have read about the Dec. 8 raid at 14 Clifford Drive in Beverly Hills. The homeowner was charged with animal cruelty and child abuse, and the reports show a significant amount of animal hoarding at the house.
Animal Control officers removed cats, snakes and whatever else they could find. They observed “hundreds” of large rats and the county code officer even made a point of saying it could be a problem even if the house is demolished.
“Due to the quantity of rats inside the home, it is recommended the home be tented by an exterminator to mitigate the rat infestation prior to completing the demo to avoid the rats running from the property to neighboring areas,” the code officer’s report states.
The officer was spot on. Unfortunately, the rats didn’t wait for the government to schedule a pest control visit.
Within days they were wandering the neighborhood, climbing fences and walls, getting into garages and attics.
Here are excerpts from Lisa’s email to me:
“Now we live in the middle of Jackson Street, which is several houses behind the house that was raided. Sunday, December 10, several neighbors including our household, eye-witnessed white rats literally crawling up our own homes and neighbors' homes attempting to get in.”
“I am sending a few pictures, but this doesn't even begin to show the true numbers, because it has already been DAYS, and these rats have been on the move. The immediate houses surrounding the house in question are already infested...I am NOT EXAGGERATING.....one bit. In fact, there are houses that are clearly at the END of the street already seeing them — 10 houses away!”
Lisa emailed county commission Chairwoman Ruthie Davis Schlabach, who passed it to code compliance. I also forwarded her email to Commissioner Jeff Kinnard, who sent it to the new county administrator. Welcome to Citrus County, Steve Howard!
It certainly brought together numerous agencies: Code compliance, sheriff’s animal control, environmental health, fire services and animal services.
The county is going to demolish the house on Dec. 27 and have it tented as quickly before that as it can, according to county emails.
The neighbors have a petition that makes some good points. Chief among them is that, while shutting down a rat-infested home is good for the neighborhood, doing so without a plan for the rats isn’t.
“Even as it was documented and well understood that more than 300 rodents were running loose, 1) rodents were not secured; 2) the premises were not boarded; 3) no rodent pest control action was taken; 4) no clear plan of action/directed responsibility party was considered even after numerous reports, complaints and pleas from several surrounding neighbors about the gravity of the situation…”
It adds: “As of Dec. 13, the house has not been secured and the 300-plus population of rodents that were publicly noted by CCSO have now dispersed into the neighborhood and have breached multiple neighboring homes.”
What we have here is your classic personal responsibility vs government responsibility debate. The government did a good thing by shutting down a dangerous house. An unintended consequence sent hundreds of hungry rats to explore the Beverly Hills neighborhoods.
Who’s responsible for ridding the neighborhood of these rats? The neighbors are setting rat traps but, honest to God…I don’t want to even think about that.
I drove through the neighborhood Wednesday afternoon. Saw no rodents, alive or perished. Looked like an ordinary weekday in Beverly Hills.
But I think back to my first job out of college, living in a single wide mobile home in Big Rapids, Michigan, on my own for the first time. First night I heard mice in the ceiling scurrying about, pawing at the boards here and there. Didn’t like it then and that memory is giving me the shivers.
I’m not sure what the government’s role is here. But 10 days before Christmas, rats showing up is the last thing anyone needs.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.