Cēsis residents smell a rat or fifty

Residents of an apartment complex in Cēsis complain about a swarm of rats living in an apartment by themselves. There is no law against keeping dozens of animals in an apartment as long as they're cared for, Latvian Television's 4. studija reported on February 28.

LTV was approached by Vitalijs, whose first-floor neighbor's apartment has housed about fifty rodents for many years. Residents of the other 11 apartments suffer from the woman's hobby and are thoroughly annoyed. They have filmed proof that a large clowder of rats inhabit the apartment. 

“We wrote to both the Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) and police. And everyone says it's private property, that you can keep as many as you want and how you want. The PVD had come and said the animals had food, everything was enough and it was private property and there was nothing they could do,” Vitalijs said.

4. studija made sure the smell of hay and rodents' urine was really felt as they entered the stairwell. Vitalijs explained that residents were forced to keep the front door open even in winter to allow fresh air to circulate in the stairwell. Residents of the house have observed that Jeļena comes to feed the rodents in the evenings, but does not live there herself.

The Chief of Police of Cēsis municipality Guntars Norbuts confirmed that a collective complaint signed by residents was received, so they verified this information and sent it to the PVD in 2022. Animal welfare has been checked and an explanation has been received from the landlady.

“She owns 57 animals. And she had previously called the PVD and made sure there was no limit on the number of pets, but the animals had to visit the vet as needed. Animals are separated in cages by gender and do not reproduce, animals are not sold,” Norbuts explained.

The Administrative Commission of the local government, social services, and, for reasons unknown, Orphan's Court had also reportedly visited the apartment and found no violations, even though one could argue that the rats are minors living by themselves.

So, the neighbors have the right to complain about the smell but there is no law on their side. 

Jeļena herself confirmed that she did not live in the apartment, the rats had it all to themselves.

Jeļena explained that people tend to buy a rat, a degu or another fluffy rodent, but then realize the animal needs to be taken care of and it becomes redundant. The highest number of abandoned ornamental rats was seen in the year 2020 - the year of the rat - when people bought them for good luck, but it turned out that this good luck charm also had to be fed and cleaned.

She has been caring for such discarded rodents for a decade. They also receive veterinary care, she stressed, all for her own expenses. Requests to take in abandoned rodents come from all over Latvia.

"I somehow can't pass them by because there are many cat and dog rescuers, but there is no shelter that would save the little ones,” Jeļena said.

The video shows the rodents being well maintained; the cages contain cardboard houses, for rat seniors - throw blankets and pads so they don't get hurt,  hammocks, water and food. The only problem is the smell, which is particularly felt in winter.

Jeļena agreed that the smell could spread. Similarly, garbage bags are not always immediately removed after cleaning cages. She is said to have been looking for other spaces so that this rodent rescue mission isn't cumbersome for neighbors, yet so far - without success. Jeļena sent an official document to the program - the vet has checked the animal health condition and they are all healthy.

Cēsis municipal police also admitted that the woman was doing a good job because otherwise abandoned animals would perish.

People who can offer rooms to keep abandoned rodents in Cēsis are asked to turn to the municipal police.

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