Rat Attack

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

Poison by day. Rat traps by night. The Mullens stay busy round-the-clock killing the rodents that have invaded their home.

"The health department says the mice have burrowed down into the ground and made a colony," explains concerned renter, Cheryl Mullen.

She says she has killed as many as sixty rats here in one night. But despite a weekly bleaching of the basement, the rodent droppings accumulat, evidence that the nest is thriving.

"I think the health problems have been for a couple of years, but with repeated requests to the landlord, nothing has been done," says Mullen.

The family would have moved out sooner, but Mullen says they're not financially able. But now, they have no choice. City building inspectors have condemned the Jefferson Street duplex, giving the family until the end of the month to move.

Carl Hohnke, Jr., an exterminator with Minnick Termite and Pest Control, says, "The city very seldom gets involved, but when they do, you know there's a severe problem."

Hohnke says rats carry diseases, fleas and are a danger to small children - like little Rachel and Savannah Mullen.

Other health risks, like toxic black mold, have also led to the home's condemnation. The family has tried to make repairs themselves. City maintenance code says the property owner is responsible for upkeep. The Mullens think the owner should be responsible for finding them a new home, too.

"There's six people here living on one income. We've got no money to go or place to go," Mullen says.

In a letter to property owner O'Gretta Cook, Harrisonburg building officials say they will take legal action if the rat problem is not resolved within 30 days.


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