Animals, rats divided between foster homes and shelters

Posted at 4:36 PM, May 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-27 17:55:01-04

FRUITPORT TWP., Mich. – More animals were removed from a Fruitport Township home Wednesday after efforts to remove over 1,000 rats and other animals began yesterday.

Dozens of rats were still around the property Wednesday, after the deadline for Christine Lea and her animals to leave passed at noon Tuesday. Christine told FOX 17 News Wednesday that she is sorry that this situation got out of hand.

“I’m extremely, extremely sorry that this got to the degree that this did with those rats, if I could have kept them on birth control,” said Lea. “As much as I know about animals, I should have really, really known better than to let it go this far.”

“I kept reaching out for help and reaching out for help, and couldn’t get any help. I guess I should have demanded help. While there will never be a next time, there’s a lot of valuable lessons learned form this. I’m sorry to the animals and I’m sorry to the community,” she said.

Lea’s attorney tells us that Lea is the victim in this case and was asking for help.  She says that someone else “dumped” the rats on her and that she did not take in these rats as part of her animal rescue that she ran out of the home.

She ran Christine’s Critter Cafe’ Rescue in the 800-square foot home that she was renting.  The infestation apparently began after an anonymous person dropped off nearly 150 rats in a cage with a 50-pound bag of dog food over the winter.  The rats quickly multiplied.

Lea has signed an “animal release” with the township, giving up her ownership of all the animals still on the property.  In return, the township will not prosecute her for abandoning the animals or for any nuisance they may have caused after she left.

The Fruitport Township Supervisor tells us the homeowner is cooperating with officials and says once the rats are cleared, he’ll check out the property to determine whether or not the home needs to be demolished.  The township determined that the home was unfit for humans.

Friends of Lea’s are taking in some of the rats, including the Harbor Humane Society.  Some people have adopted the rats for pets. After Animal Control officers left the home Wednesday, other friends, like Debbie Land, showed up to take the caged animals to foster homes.

“I told [Christine] that she had to call me before it got that out of hand, and I could fix it,” said Land. “I think she just gets real into taking care of the animals and forgets what’s going on, and forgets that there are people out there that will help.”

Fruitport Township is planning a public hearing on this matter in coming weeks.  The Muskegon County Prosecutor said this case has not been presented to his office as of Wednesday.