Rats from a heavily infested house were being trapped to be offered for adoption as pets.
After being alerted by neighbors, Thurston County animal control officials on April 9 served a search warrant on Michele Diller, 64.
They found that pet rats had ruined the house, chewed through walls, cupboards, drawers and wires, soaked carpets with urine and covered floors with feces. The officials removed a cat, four severely malnourished snakes, five mice and two rats.
Since then, county health officials have said the house will be condemned and Diller has moved to an apartment in neighboring Lewis County to await assisted-living housing.
Poisoned traps were set for a time to eliminate the rats, apparently the offspring of a few Diller purchased as food for the snakes, and more than 100 dead rats have been removed, said Hilary Price of RatsPacNW in Seattle.
Poison was used before her volunteer group got involved, and the rest of the rats are being trapped live to be offered for adoption, said Price, the sister of former Seattle Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price.
Rodent enthusiasts around the state constitute "a huge rat community," Price said.
As of Thursday the group had captured 29 live rats, including 10 babies.
"They're very smart, they're very clean, they can do tricks," Price said. "They're like little miniature dogs."
Before agreeing to move, Diller was saying, `You can't hurt them, they're my friends,'" said Susanne Beauregard, director of Animal Services.
The rats could not survive in the wild because Diller fed them cat food, so they have no scavenging skills, and poor eyesight would also make them easy prey, Price said.
Diller has been promised her cat, Cheyenne, will be returned once she has long-term accommodations, which could happen as early as May 1, Beauregard said. Two snakes have been adopted by new owners and two red-tailed boa constrictors are recovering under veterinary care.