San Francisco “Rat Girl” Erica J. has been breeding rats in her hotel room and releasing them in parks.
Local officials have exterminated thousands of rats in her room and neighboring areas.
While authorities are trying to keep track of a San Francisco woman who was breeding rats in her room at a residential hotel and releasing them in public parks, they say their hands are tied as far as trying to stop her.
She’s been nicknamed “Rat Girl” by the people who’ve followed her behavior over the years. But officials told KTVU the situation is no laughing matter because her affection for rats could endanger her health and the health of the San Francisco public.
KTVU on Thursday obtained video shot in April of 2011 of a room in a Minna Street SRO hotel packed with piles of filthy clothes, a dirty mattress and dozens of rats, burrowing in and out of the debris.
Animal Care and Control officials say the then-resident — a 43 year-old woman known as “Erica J.” — bred hundreds of rats in the room. San Francisco’s Public Health Department told KTVU that by the end of May, 2011, it had exterminated a thousand rats in the room and neighboring areas.
“The rats have actually burrowed into other people’s rooms. They can carry disease, they can carry parasites,” said Animal Care & Control Captain Denise Bongiovanni. “I was immediately concerned for the well-being of Erica. I believe that there’s a serious underlying mental health issue that needs to be addressed and it seems to be unresolved.”
Bongiovanni said that in the last three years, Erica J’s social worker, landlords and members of the public have reported her for breeding the rodents.
At one point, Bongiovanni said Erica J. lived under a Japantown pedestrian bridge and brought her rats with her…
Animal Care & Control Department head Rebecca Katz told KTVU her department often has trouble tracking down Erica J. and said prosecuting her under the municipal code is unlikely to solve the problem. Bongiovanni said the woman needs treatment to prevent her behavior from harming herself, others and the rats.
“We understand that Erica has housing again in the city and I can only imagine that this situation is probably going to continue wherever she lives until she gets the help that she needs,” said Bongiovanni.
Inside her hotel room she keeps hundreds of rats that are allowed to burrow through her mattress and piles of trash.