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Philly Rat Rescue

IN THE January 18 ISSUE

FROM THE 2014 Articles,
andDiana Hockley,
andRodent Ramblings

by Diana Hockley

KRL has been getting to know some of the rat rescues in the US and this week we are interviewing the founders of Philly Rat Rescue: Annette Ravinsky, Stephen Fleeger, Sarita Ravinsky-Fleeger, and Maria McAllister.

KRL: Rescuing animals is a labor of love and total dedication. What was the catalyst for the creation of Philly Rat Rescue? And when did it come to be?

PRR: Philly Rat Rescue was founded in the summer of 2012, after another rat rescue we (Annette, Maria and Stephen) had previously been with, among other issues, decided to relocate outside of Philadelphia. We felt there should be a rat rescue presence in the City of Philadelphia proper. In addition, we wanted our rescue to exist primarily to rescue rats from seriously dangerous situations (abandonment, Craigslist “free” ads, and so on). We also wanted to have a hospice to care for elderly, terminally ill and disabled rats that could not be adopted out.

PRR rescues

KRL: What sort of set-up do you have–is it a private house, a shed or a purpose-built complex?

PRR: We exist as an informal network of private foster homes located in the City of Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery Counties, PA and central/southern New Jersey.

KRL: What type of animals do you take in? Just rats or do you take in others too? And how many can you accommodate?

PRR: We restrict our animal intake to domestic rats only. We were originally founded to take in a maximum limit of ten rats (spread across all our foster homes) at any one time, yet since our founding we have always found space somehow! If we do ever have to turn someone away, we always do so after we have found a suitable place for them to go to.

KRL: Do you have to be a registered charity for rescue or tax exemption purposes?

PRR: We are not yet a 501 (c) 3 charity, but have plans to become such when finances permit.

KRL: How does the local community regard your activities and are they supportive in adoption and/or monetary terms?

PRR: Rat people are among the most committed in the animal rescue world. We have never lacked for anything we needed, once the call was put out for help, be it in financial donations or supplies!

KRL: Do you have many volunteers and how do you recruit them?

PRR: We currently have six volunteers. Four came with us from the previous rescue we were with, and we have recruited more since then, often from our pool of past adopters.

KRL: How did you personally get involved?

PRR: The first rat I ever had was ALICE, whom I rescued from euthanasia in 1985 when I worked for an animal shelter. Since then I have had many other rats, but never as many as since I got involved in rat rescue work in 2010!

KRL: Rescues depend on donations from the public – do you charge a small fee for your animals when they are adopted?

PRR: We ask an adoption donation when rats are adopted; this normally goes to the foster parent to help them recoup some of their costs in fostering, but often foster parents request that the money go to the rescue general fund. Foster parents pay for the care of their foster rats from their own pockets, the only thing the rescue pays (and which we fundraise for) are veterinary bills.

KRL: Are there any special challenges to rescuing rats?

PRR: The biggest problem we have to weeding out snake owners who want to get socialized, tame rats to feed to their snakes, figuring such rats won’t put up a fight and harm the snake. This is also why our adoption donation always stays slightly above what “feeder” rats sell for in stores (“feeder rats” are those bred as snake food.) Another challenge is the mentality many people have, of seeing small animals as not worthy of veterinary care, the same as they would a dog or cat. They are seen as being more disposable than other animals.

KRL: How many animals do you think you have saved so far?

PRR: Almost every rat that comes into our rescue is entered on Petfinder which is how we keep track and advertise them for new homes. However, a number were adopted before we had a chance to add them to Petfinder. Overall, we estimate we have saved over 200 rats since our founding in August 2012, but that may be a conservative estimate!

KRL: Have you any fundraising or adoption events coming up and would you like to give the details?

PRR: We generally fundraise using online websites, Facebook, email, public events we go to.

KRL: Do local vets help in any way?

PRR: Our official vet is medical director of a small humane society, and has been there for us every step of the way, something we are very grateful to him for! We also have worked with other area vets, and maintain a listing of vets that will treat rats in our area (not all vets will.)

KRL: Does the nearest ASPCA send rats to you and do they help if they can?

PRR: We do not generally accept rats from shelters. Shelters locally tend to be rat-friendly (unlike in some areas) for the most part. We feel if a rat has made it to a shelter, while not an ideal situation, it is much safer than being abandoned outside (which often happens to rats), or being offered on Craigslist as snake food or “free to anybody”. Our priority are the rats that have no one else to look out for them: the elderly, the disabled, the terminally ill, the rats with serious health issues that have owners who won’t get them veterinary care, the rats being threatened with abandonment, etc

KRL: Have you been involved in any hoarder or big rescues? If so can you tell us about it?

PRR: I personally (Annette) was directly involved with a rescue in May 2011 when I was temporarily running another rat rescue. My husband and I were told of a “rat rescue” in NJ where the woman was being evicted and moving in with her mother, and so she had to “rehome” her rats. When we got there we found a horrific situation: she had been breeding them as snake food, the rats were in filthy glass tanks, on cedar bedding (very unhealthy for rats), and being fed bird seed. The temperature outside was 100 degrees, the windows were closed and there were fly strips hanging everywhere with tons of dead flies on them. We got the rats out as fast as we could (37 of them!), not knowing where we would take them. Miraculously, a rat rescue in South Dakota agreed to take 34 of them, and it “just happened” that someone was driving from PA to IL and then to NE, and so we got the rats to her and she took them out there.

Another rescue we were involved in with this new rescue (PRR) involved a hoarder in Maryland that we just happened to find out about while visiting the state for other reasons. Collaborating with other rat rescuers, we rescued 28 rats from that situation, along with other animals. All 28 rats went to a small rat rescue in Maryland called Butters Rat Rescue.

KRL: What are your most urgent needs right now and how can people help?

PRR: Our most urgent needs are boxes of healthy cereals (Total, Wheaties, unsweetened puffed rice, unsweetened puffed wheat, etc) We use these and others to make a cereal mix which we give the foster rats as a supplement to the Harlan Teklad 2014 rats blocks which are the mainstay of their diet.

KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?

PRR: We want people to understand that despite their reputation, domestic rats can be the most wonderful of all pets. They are loveable and loving creatures, and do not at all deserve the bad rap they have been given! They have been despised and rejected by humans for so long, yet so undeserving of that abuse. All they want is what any other of God’s creatures wants: the right to live and be happy.

KRL: What is your website URL and FB and Twitter details?

PRR: Our website is: www.phillyratrescue.com (our website contains a link to our Petfinder page as well.) Our Facebook page can be found by clicking here.

We also operate the St Francis Rat Sanctuary. You can check out our Facebook page here.

Our address and phone are: PHILLY RAT RESCUE/SFRS, PO Box 45662, Philadelphia, PA 19149-5662 856-357-6603

Donations can be made by clicking here.

The Mission Statement or motto of Philly Rat Rescue is:

PHILLY RAT RESCUE–Where every rat counts.

You can find more rat stories & articles in our Rodent Ramblings section.

Diana Hockley is an Australian mystery author who lives in a southeast Queensland country town. She is the devoted slave of five ratties & usually finds an excuse to mention them in her writing, including her recent novel, The Naked Room. Since retiring from running a traveling mouse circus for 10 years, she is now the mouse judge for the Queensland Rat & Mouse Club shows. To learn more, check out her website.

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