By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) – An Arizona man was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty after hundreds of dying or dead domesticated rats were found inside a large trailer north of Phoenix, authorities said on Tuesday.
Jeffrey Wendorff, 28, was arrested by Yavapai County sheriff’s deputies on Monday and could face two misdemeanor charges since the discovery in Black Canyon City, about 50 miles from Phoenix.
Arriving deputies and animal control officers could immediately smell a stench from the property and discovered 300 to 500 rats in a pen in the back of the trailer and several others in a front area, said sheriff’s spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn.
“The temperature inside the trailer was over 100 degrees and the odor was overwhelming,” D’Evelyn said in a statement. He estimated that about 25 percent of the animals were dead.
Authorities said they were tipped to the gruesome scene by a citizen who called the county health department after seeing the rats in and around the large travel trailer.
Deputies also found several aquariums with newborn and adult rats that appeared to be in good condition.
Wendorff told sheriff’s deputies he was living on the property rent free as part of a deal with the property owner to breed and sell the rats.
He also said he stopped caring for the rodents recently and had left the residence over a pay dispute, telling deputies, “As far as I know, (the rats are) probably all dead.”
Wendorff has since been released from a county detention center and is due in court at a future date that was not immediately known, D’Evelyn said.
(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Michael Perry)