By Ashley Meeks
"I had no idea what I was getting into," Ernest "Gino" Jimenez said Thursday of his first rat-hoarding case in 14 years with Las Cruces animal control. "Never, and I hope to never see it again."
Inside the rented stucco house on the 4800 block of Camino dos Vidas, on the East Mesa, rat feces was "wall to wall" and covered the surface of the renter's bed, Jimenez said.
"The smell was overwhelming," said Jimenez, who did not see any human food in the home. "She did have some rat food, but they've got access to everything. They're eating cardboard, paper, stuffing out of the couches, I mean everything. ... You could see little bite marks on all the (bed) coverings."
Two skinny dogs and 176 red-eyed, Albino rats had been taken to the shelter by the end of the day Thursday, with at least that many still hiding in the home, Jimenez said. Officers also found the fur and skeleton remains of two dead dogs that were presumed to have been eaten by the rats, he said.
Debbie Martin, 55, a renter in the 4800 block of Camino dos Vidas, was criminally cited for excessive waste, improper care and maintenance of animals and dead animal removal. The three misdemeanors each carry a maximum fine of $500 or 90 days in jail.
The hundreds of large, feral rats removed from Martin's home all sprang from a single breeding pair within the last few months, said neighbor Chuck McReynolds.
"I helped her carry in some furniture in there three months ago and there was nothing..." More