Sunday, June 25, 2006

Man Lives with 1,000 Rats


Roger Dier, packed 1,000 pet rats into his Petaluma home,He has lived quietly since moving to Petaluma in 1978, where he rents a one-room cottage where animal control officers found 1,000 rats this week.Dier, who was cited for misdemeanor animal cruelty, said he became ill earlier this year and lost control of his fast-breeding pack of pets."I admit it is a gross irresponsibility on my part," he said. "It came from denial. I didn't want to face the truth of it."In an interview outside his home,

Dier, now 66, said he has had a deep compassion for animals since childhood.He doesn't squish spiders or bugs. He feels bad if he accidentally cuts an earthworm in half while digging a hole. It bothers him to see animals, such as possums, run over on the road.He initially was reluctant to talk about his case, and said he fears the reaction to his story.Dier said depression, loneliness, denial and his recent bout with ill health were to blame for all the rats.Petaluma animal control officers were expecting to find cats when they went to his house Tuesday following complaints from neighbors about the smell.Instead, they seized Dier's rats.Most of them were kept in cages, though a few had escaped and he said he was trying to catch them.Dier has had other animals over the years.He currently has seven cats in his home, and he feeds three abandoned cats outside. He once had 30 snakes. And he also is part-owner in two race horses, he said, showing his horse racing ID card for proof.

One of the snakes, a three-foot-long Indian python, actually led to the rat pack, he said.The snake wouldn't eat pre-killed rats. So Dier fed it young mice and rats he bought from the pet store. One baby rat kept escaping the snake and pleading for its life with little squeaks, Dier said."I couldn't stand it," Dier said. "I took the rat out of the cage and got to know it."He called her Miss Mousey, and when she died he replaced her with four more bought from a pet store.Those proliferated, some escaped into the house, and six months ago, when Dier was sick with the flu and bronchitis, he couldn't keep up with the fast breeding population."I did not set out to do this," he said. "I do acknowledge irresponsibility and there's a case for laziness, denial, incompetence and just plain foolishness."But "it was not all my fault," he added. "It was this force of nature that overwhelmed me."

A single pair of breeding rats can produce several generations and hundreds of offspring in a matter of months.Dier was buying 250-pounds of rat food every five days and said he felt some relief that the rats were seized because he couldn't keep up with caring for them and knew it was a dangerous situation."I was aware of the crushing burden of having to take care of them all," he said.

By all appearances Dier is an everyday retiree.He drives a new Toyota Tacoma. He dresses in jeans, a Hawaiian shirt, sandals and a gold-plated watch. He has a bushy moustache and an almost-shaved balding head.He worked in an assembly plant and as a craftsman making stained glass, but now lives off a small inheritance from his mother. He has a daughter in Napa but no other family.His home, which he's rented for 20 years, reeks of urine. The floor is covered with the chaff of feed mixed with rat droppings. The Sheetrock walls have holes chewed in them. Everything is gnawed on.He sleeps there, but leaves during the day to an office. He doesn't have food or prepare food at the house.He hangs clothes outside to avoid the smell.

He said the rats are misunderstood.They are gentle, lovable, clean creatures and are endless source of entertainment, he said. "There is nothing cuter than a baby rat," he said. "They melt your heart."He worries about the rats being euthanized or adopted out to abusive homes."Right now I feel a lot of grief," he said. One rat, which was injured, was euthanized as of Friday, according to animal control.But the city takes legal control of the rats Sunday, and staff will come in to start euthanizing rats that are not socialized enough to adopt out, said Nancee Tavares, manager of the Petaluma animal shelter.People started coming by on Friday offering to adopt some of the rats


At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's wild considering I was just in Petaluma. I think this is a picture of the spiritual atmosphere of that area. People are being overrun by the things held in secret.


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