46 Pet Rats Removed from Des Moines Home

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The City of Des Moines says Bill Watkins' southeast side home is such a mess, it isn't even safe for 46 of his pet rats to stay there. They were removed this week.

Watkins misses them. "I'll lay in bed with one of the rats and it's just, they run around. They know their own name. So I'll call them and they'll come back up."

Watkins says he originally got a few rats for his teenage daughter, they seem to help her with her bi-polar disorder. Then, he says, things kind of got out of hand, forcing the city to step in. "(It) really affected my daughter. Of course, that's who the rats are for. And admittedly we did have a lot more rats that we probably should have," Watkins says.

Watkins says the city allowed him to keep 10 rats, all female so they can't reproduce. He admits, with 50-plus rats in the house, sometimes they were hard to care for. "Oh, once in a while. We'd go get like cheap cereal and that works. Dog food."

Watkins says he'll do anything to get his rats back. He's even started cleaning up his house the way the city wants it cleaned up.

"Yes. My...my wife is not one of the best housekeepers and neither am I. Right now she's not feeling very good," Watkins says, "I'm willing to do anything they ask. They've asked to have the house cleaned up. I'm willing to do that."

The city does not put limits on how many rats a person can own, as long as those rats are taken care of. Watkins and his family are not expected to face any charges.


  • Michelle Jacobs-Anderson

    rats are very intelligent, so are squirrels, mice, dogs, cats, birds, raccoons and pretty much all animals if you get to know them. that doesn’t mean you should keep every single one of them. maybe why the family isn’t feeling well could be the rat pee which can cause health problems. maybe they aren’t the smartest creatures after all? not litter box trained…
    even dogs have a limit, cant keep all the puppies as they continue to reproduce, so do rabbits!.. cant keep them all either. if something reproduces in your home, you should take responsibility to know a good limit. yeah I would say anything over 10 is probably way too many living creatures to handle. my son brought home a pet mouse, so glad that pet store closed at the mall_ and two aquariums full once we found the mouse had babies, was too many! we gave them away back to the pet store after that.
    how in the world do you remember 46 pets by name?
    I feel for the family being attached to their pets and all, but yeah, I am glad someone stepped in to help the pets, now also hope, more importantly, that someone steps in to help clean properly and show how best to care for the pets when and if they all come back. another good option is to also show the family how to adopt out the excess to good homes.
    seems they got overwhelmed and were not educated. simply bringing them out to the public is wrong, helping and educating is a more appropriate way to handle any sort of family situations, sad that our government and news does not help and educate rather they prosecute, criminalize, and discriminate against anyone who isn’t living by overall standards set by the government. good luck to the family! and lets help get families educated on caring for pets, and cleaning etc. I miss the show with the English cleaning nannies who come in and show proper etiquette, cleaning, etc.and as they educate, they also pitch in and help!..we need more like this here in the US. Iowa would be a great place to start.

  • Michelle Jacobs-Anderson

    it would be nice if he isn’t the best house keeper if someone went in to help with cleaning the place up, and gave him the opportunity to volunteer at the animal care shelter where all the pet rats are being homed currently, in exchange. that seems fair.

  • Sue

    All I can is, what a sick world we live in.

    Amazingly, these sick individuals are out walking amongst us.

    • Cindy

      Excuse me, but I happen to know that family personally. And they aren’t “disgusting Individuals.” They are a kind and caring family. And its the fathers fault because whenever she would try to clean he would make her go do something else.

      Also facts were wrong in this news report.
      *The daughter IS NOT Bi-polar.
      *They only let them keep 5. Not 10.
      *The city did not help them clean.

    • brianna

      yes it does amaze me how many sick poeple like you walk around thing they are better then everyone else.

  • Guest

    Anyone old enough to remember the movie Ben? Michael Jackson had the theme song. Ewww the thought of living next to him.

  • Dan

    you know your housekeeping is pretty bad, when the city feels compelled to rescue the rats in your home

  • Rat Lover

    As a rat owner myself, I must say this is unacceptable. Those poor animals did not ask to like like that. I personally own 13, two of which are only temporary fosters, and I am very careful to separate my males and females into different cages. It’s not that hard to tell. It’s actually VERY obvious. I just don’t understand how it can ‘get out of control’ like that. Rats may not be as universally accepted a pet as dogs and cats, but they are still lives. It doesn’t matter how long they live (3 years) or how smart they are (smarter than dogs and cats, in the top 10), or what ridiculous social stigma are attached to them, there is no excuse for letting this happen. I just hope they find a rescue to take in the rats and they aren’t put down or given for reptile food.

Comments are closed.