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Ever wondered where most pet shop rats come from? - Take a look inside a Rodent Farm

The following images were originally posted on the Fancy Rats forum by Carla who lives in the Netherlands, but it gives you an idea of what the inside of a rodent farm actually looks like and where the vast majority of rats you will find in pet shops and pet sections of garden centres start out their lives. Carla is studying animal science and as part of her studies was invited to visit a rodent farm and the owner was happy to allow pictures to be taken by Carla and was happy to answer any questions that were asked.

Although this particular rodent farm is in the Netherlands, similar set ups are used by rodent farms in many countries, including the UK. For pet shops/garden centres, sadly it makes sense for them to be able to source all their live and frozen ‘stock’ from the same place and many will not have knowledge or even care about what is really going on behind the closed doors as these animals are just profit to them. Quite often, staff in these shops will have no idea where their livestock comes from or are told to say ‘local breeder’ while management hides the source from them. Many of these rodent farms were originally set up to supply the growing herp market needing frozen rodents, but the pet market off the back of that was an easy one for them to step into, particularly as more and more chain stores and garden centres now sell small animals. (Great way to attract the impulse buyer and kids into your shop!)

When you look at the kind of numbers involved and the set up, it is clear that the animals cannot be handled much as babies and understandable why perhaps so many mistakes are made on sexing them before they send them to pet shops at 5 weeks old, but these places won’t care as their business is making more, so they often offer pet shops to do ‘sale or return’ and send them back to be frozen after the pet shop has continued feeding them up for an extra few weeks.

If you ever needed a reason not to buy your pets from pet shops, the below should give you some food for thought!

Carla wrote the below text and has given permission for her images and text to be reproduced for NFRS Pro-Rat-a and also my Ratz website.

“This man breeds mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, lemmings, degus and gerbils. He also had a few ornamental birds and a couple of owls. The rats are housed in pairs or in groups of three; lactating does are housed separately with their young. The does are constantly pregnant or lactating. When they are done breeding, they become snake food; the same goes for ill and old rats or those that cannot be sold (deformities, etc). The rats are fed rodent blocks and a few extras like bread, cat kibble and some vegetables. They are kept on hemp type bedding.

He breeds all kinds of rats: double rex, naked, rex, dumbo, but also top-eared, normal fur, etc. The rats are of various colours but he is most proud of his blues, who are prize winning. He showed a blue male that sat very quietly and contently in his arms; this rat was only handled once a week, during clean out, and even so it was sweet as pie. He particularly appreciated the character of blues, who he said were tamer (although I suspect this can be attributed to his 'lines' rather than the colour as a whole). For new varieties, blood and upkeep, he obtains some animals from Czech Republic, where prices are low but quality is poor; but he prefers rats from the UK, as that's where he could get the special colours and rats of good quality. The animals are sold mainly to pet shops.”

The Pictures

The hall. In front, in the white things are the guinea pigs; behind it are feeder mice and rabbits; in front on our right are mice, hamsters and gerbils; rats are in the back.

The Rat Housing

What can we do to reduce this trade?

If the above pictures have opened your eyes and made you really think that you would like to stop the rodent farm trade, the best possible thing we can do individually is to educate, educate, educate! Individuals can make a difference; they just have to spread the word.

  • Stop buying live animals from pet shops/garden centres yourself and also stop buying any products from any shop selling animals. Support the ones that sell no livestock instead.

  • Educate others in a calm, rational and non-judgemental way to follow your lead so as to hit the shops hardest in their profit margins!

  • Write to these pet shops and tell them why you are taking your trade elsewhere. There is no point in walking away and not letting these shops know why you will no longer shop there.

  • Write to your local MP and D.E.F.R.A - these places will exist as long as they are legal and people continue to support buying small animals from pet shops.

  • Promote and support genuine breeders and rescue centres by using them yourself and pointing others in the right direction and away from pet shops.

Article written by Estelle & published in Pro-Rat-a 163

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Images & Text Copyright © 2008 Estelle Sandford, Alpha Centauri
Please do not reproduce without permission
Last modified: January 02, 2008