by Diana Hockley
This week we interviewed another rat and small animal rescue, Butters Rat House Small Animal Rescue in Maryland. We chatted with founder Crystal Tranter.
KRL: Rescuing animals is a labor of love and total dedication. What was the catalyst for the creation of the Butters Rat House and Small Animal Rescue, and when did it come into being?
Butters: We have always had a drive to save and help animals. About six years ago, however, we lost a dear pet. Her name was Butters. A rat yes, but more than a rat, she was like a child to us. We had adopted her mother, “Mamma,” from a small, dirty pet shop. We saved “Momma” and gained our third rat. Unknown to us she was pregnant. Butters was the smallest and weakest baby of her litter, so naturally we gravitated to her. Once Butters died we realized that had it not been for us adopting Mamma, those babies would have become lunch for some snake.
KRL: What sort of set-up do you have? Is it a private house, a shed, or a purpose-built complex?
Butters: Bedroom private house, with one “Rat Room.” Our office doubles as a room for new arrivals so we can quarantine them.
KRL: How many can you accommodate? And what variety of animals do you rescue?
Butters: It varies depending on the time of the year (Easter sees a lot of unwanted pets), and the amount of room our foster network has. It also depends on the amounts of volunteers at the time. We try to focus on rescuing rats, however, we try not to ever turn away small animals such as guinea pigs, sugar gliders, hamsters, gerbils, etc.
KRL: How do you manage adoptions? What are the criteria for people to give animals forever homes?
Butters: When it comes to adoptions, we have a two-page contract. We do exceptions if we feel that the placements fit the situation with repeat adoptions, and well-known individuals.
KRL: Rescues depend on donations from the public. Do you charge a small fee for your animals when they are adopted? And do you have PayPal and credit card facilities?
Butters: We charge $10 USD per adoption. We want to make the adoption affordable to the adopter. That allows more money to be spent on the animal, and we do have PayPal facilities.
KRL: Are you a registered charity for rescue or tax exemption purposes?
Butters: Yes, we are.
KRL: Do local vet surgeries help in any way?
Butters: Yes. Without our vet, we wouldn’t be here today. The amount of knowledge and support that we have been given has been a godsend.
KRL: How does the local community regard your activities, and are they supportive in adoption and/or monetary terms?
Butters: We have had problems in the past due to the fact we save what they call “Just a Rat, not a real pet.” But we have slowly won some over, and given enough time, we plan to turn the rest to our cause. And in the process have gained some very unlikely supporters which surprised even us.
KRL: Do you have many volunteers and how do you recruit them?
Butters: We have on average about three to six volunteers at any given time. The problem as you might understand is that it’s much easier to find people that are dog and cat lovers. Rats on the other hand still have stigmas which hinder the process of finding people that will put the effort forward for them. However, we have a great group of fellow rat lovers, and close friends that we couldn’t do without.
KRL: What are the special challenges to rescuing rats?
Butters: That’s just it: everything about helping rats is special. The special challenges to helping rats is the fact that, by nothing but chance they were born an animal which people love to hate. Rats carry the weight of being blamed for killing a third of the world’s population during the Dark Ages. When something is labelled “dirty” and “diseased” for hundreds of years, it makes it hard to change people’s minds. A dog will lick your face and play catch. A cat will sit on your lap and purr for hours. Rats on the other hand, take a special kind of person. A person that is willing to take the time to learn a new way of being a pet parent.
KRL: How many animals do you think you have saved so far?
Butters: It’s hard to put a number on the amount, really. I could guess, but that wouldn’t do the real number justice. Once you start to look at animals as a number, you start to forget that they are in their own way little people…people that like to give you a challenge at times, but little people none the less. But if you would like a number to put things in perspective, I would say more than 500, less than 1000.
KRL: Do you have any special/funny/dramatic rescue stories to share?
Butters: We have had our fair share of hoarding situations that we have helped to resolve. Being a medical condition, and keeping the privacy of those that were involved, we would like to keep the rest confidential, [so] as not to make a mockery of those we have helped.
KRL: Does the nearest ASPCA send rats to you, and do they help if they can?
Butters: Yes, we have taken in rats for the ASPCA and other shelters like the MHS. We like to work with places like that because they don’t usually handle animals like rats. We are actually working on getting two rats from our local animal control.
KRL: Have you any fund-raising or adoption events coming up and would you like to give the details?
Butters: This is the link for our fundraising, with hammocks and t-shirts: www.facebook.com/crystalscrittercomforts
KRL: What are your most urgent needs right now and how can people help?
Butters:We are always in need of rat food, oxbow or Harlen lab blocks. Bedding. Sophresh from Petco, or the national Geo brand from Petco. Really anything paper based. Items to mix in their food like snacks. Treats, toys and houses.
We could also use hammocks and beds but I do make them. [I] just don’t have time to really make extras for our kids. Those are really what we could use help with.
KRL: What are your website URL and FB details?
Check out more rat rescue profiles & other pet rat related articles and stories in our Rodent Ramblings section and other animal rescue and pet related articles in our Pet Section. And if you advertise with KRL 10% of your advertising fee can go to rat rescue Rattie Ratz.