I don't think it's a big secret that I love my rats. My rats, are honestly, my world.
Well, today, my world kind-of came crumbling down. I don't know how many of you knew about this, but I live in a gated community. Let me first start off by saying that gated communities are, well, for lack of a better word, hell.
Everyone gets in your business, and the "board" makes the most stupid decisions. Every few years there are "votes" to decide who is the President of the neighborhood, treasurer, secretary, etc. - And yet during these "votes" we aren't really well notified. It's not just when it comes to the votes either. If there are big decisions to be made, it's all based on what these 4-5 board members want (and maybe a few other people, who have nothing better to do than attend a meeting in the evening.)
Well every month or so there are meetings (that nobody is notified about) at our clubhouse. And apparently, during the last meeting. I was brought up. There used to be a large wooded area right north of our neighborhood, but there is being a new neighborhood built, and so they are clearing the wooded area over there, out. As a result, a lot of unwanted pests and animals have come into our neighborhood - One of those pests, being wild rats.
According to some people, the wild rat problem was my fault, because the wild rats could smell my rats, and it was bringing them all to our neighborhood (as well as snakes.)
Well apparently, someone who lives in my neighborhood found out I have rats. Normally, I keep my pet rats inside of my home - But when the weather is really nice (cool, but not too hot, or too cold) I put them out on my back porch, so they can get fresh air. Well the past couple weeks, the weather has been perfect, so I've had them out there.
Somebody, somehow, saw my domesticated, pet rats, and reported me to the "board." Today, I received a letter in the mail from them, basically stating that I am "raising white rats in my garage" The letter also states that if I don't take action within 21 days of the date on the letter, that I will be reported to animal control, and will receive a fine of $100 a day for up to 10 days, if the problem isn't contained.
So today, I went to a few of the board members homes. I talked to the "President" who told me that I am not allowed to have pet rats based on one of the documents we received when we moved into our home, 10+ years ago. I was provided with said document, which states the following:
"Section 7.18. Pets and Animals.
A. Commonly accepted household pets such as dogs, cats and birds may be kept in reasonable numbers. All animals shall be contained on the Owner's Plot and are not permitted to roam freely. Commercial activities involving pets are not allowed.
B. No horses, cows, hogs, pigs, swine, goats, chicken, pigeons or any other such animals shall be kept on any of the properties."
So, let's review that, and break it down. It states that commonly accepted pets are allowed. So let me ask you, would you consider a small animal a "commonly accepted pet?" I would - I'd say a vast majority of kids, when growing up have, small, common pets, such as hamsters, rats, gerbils, etc.
And then let's see, it says things that we are not allowed to have include.. UHHHHHHH... Farm Animals?! It says "or any other such animals" hmmm, based on that description, I wouldn't say rats have any relation to those. Based on there own "documentation" and rules, it sounds to me, like I haven't done anything wrong.
They tried telling me that my rats were undomesticated, and not okay too have.
I pointed out how I felt, to the president, and he stated that it's open to interpretation, and that if I really wanted to fight it, my only option was to go to the board meeting on the 17th, and then the 4-5 board members would decide. I asked him if I did that if he honestly thought I'd have a chance, and his words were "Probably not, but it's your only option."
I then asked him to tell me what he suggested, and his suggestions were" "Either abandon them, or find a friend, who doesn't live in the neighborhood, to take them"
After this, I'd had enough - I then proceeded to the office of the person who sent me the letter (A local management service.) In the office, I was in tears, because I just couldn't believe this was happening to me. The management lady was nice enough to get me a tissue, but then proceeded to have me follow her into some type of conference room, where I had to discuss my personal situation, with the doors open, for the entire office to hear.
She told me that she was informed by "informants" that I had rats. It's funny, because I had spoken to the president of the board today, and had confirmed to me that it was a specific woman in our neighborhood. The president later back-tracked what he said. He first said that it was her, and then later, when I threatened to call the police he changed it, stating "I don't even know if it was her."
For personal reasons, we'll just call this manager at the office "Sally."
Well, I told Sally that I knew who it was, and then she informed me that the other woman who I was told, brought it up, actually just confirmed that I had rats. She told me the person who actually informed her was a construction manager, who happened to see my rats, and he/she was working on the condos. I told her that made no sense, and then she told me, the construction worker had saw them across the lake. I told her that was funny, because I lived on the other side of the neighborhood, and that my home could not be seen from the lake. She told me that "said woman" must have seen it some other way then, and I continued to tell her that my yard was fenced in by bushes, and that my back yard (Which is the only place you would have been able to see the rats on my back lanai) was the only place where you could possibly see into my porch enclosure. I then asked her if her consrtruction manager had permission to trespass in my yard, and she just said no.
So really, she's admitted to me that she knows somebody has been trespassing on my property - How nice, right?! What a great management service!
She then told me that the only thing I could do was either get rid of my rats somehow, or put together some type of proof - She told me to have animals services come in, and give me some type of documentation stating that it's okay to have my pet rats, and then she told me to also go to the pet stores, and have them give me some type of documentation, stating that rats are common household pets, and that they sell them at there location.
She told me if I did that, then the board would re-consider, and go over my "case." If the board agreed that my rats were okay, then I would be allowed to keep them. She told me not to get ahead of myself, and to just follow these steps first, to see if everything was okay. I asked her, what if the board didn't agree, and she told me then I would need to get rid of them, or get a lawyer.
So after I left, I was so upset. I was in hysterics crying.
I went straight to the police department in Bonita, and I talked to the clerk at the window, and then called a number, and talked to a desk officer. The desk officer, was actually laughing, because she thought it was absolutely ridiculous - She told me that they can't tell me what I can, and cannot have in my home, and that based on the wording in the "documents" it stated nowhere, that I could not keep rats as pets.
After that I went home and talked to a few of my close friends in the neighborhood, and everyone I've talked to, agrees with me that they have no ground.
I tried calling a lawyer, but most of the offices were closed by that time. Monday I also plan on calling animal services, to see what they suggest.
I don't really have a problem with animal services coming in and inspecting if that's what's needed to be done, but I shouldn't be forced to have to do this! This is our home, and it's just not fair!
We don't really have tons of extra money to put into getting a lawyer, so I am trying to start a campaign for help on Indiegogo as well. (I canceled the campaign, as I am no longer in need of a lawyer) I have never had the need for a lawyer, and I have no idea about the amount of money needed, but I feel like I need to fight this. I'm being bullied, threatened, and harassed into pretty much throwing away part of my family.
It's not a big secret that I've had a lot of personal issues and demons in my life. Dealing with depression and BiPolar2 disorder are a daily struggle - I weaned myself off of everything, to try and deal with life issues on a better basis, where I do not need to rely on medicine to keep me happy. Right now though, I'm really not handling this well - My grandma who has handled my grandpas passing well this past year, has really kept strong, but she is still grieving, and she's even more upset than I am. She's been telling me that if they're saying this, then they have to go. Not because she doesn't want the rats, but because she can't handle the additional stress being put on her by these monsters.
I try to never ask anything of anyone, but right now, I am desperate, and scared. I can't lose my rats. I mean honestly, if I lost them, I'd just feel empty. Even tonight, I have so much to do, but I'm the type of person who shuts down in stressful situations. I haven't eaten, I haven't showered, and I can't even think straight.
I am asking you all to help me in the biggest way right now. I don't want to take anything from anybody, but I'm desperate, and need help. Even if all you can do is share this story with someone - Email, Tweet, share it on Facebook, anything, I would be forever grateful.
Right now, I just need support knowing that I am doing the right thing, that I should follow through with this, and that I need to fight and stay strong. I'm so vulnerable right now, and I really, am almost at a loss for words. All I keep repeating to myself is how this all went down today. It makes me sick to my stomach.
Thank you all for reading this - I know it's a lot, and I really hope you can all understand where I am coming from. Even if you can't help in any way, I just want you all to know that I care about every single one of you. You guys don't realize how much your kind words effect me positively when I'm struggling.
I love you guys, and I am always here for you too if you need support.