'Rat Girl' Breeds, Unleashes Rats Across San Francisco

San Francisco's animal control says 43-year-old Erica J.'s habit of breeding rats is a serious public health hazard.

'Rat Girl' Breeds, Unleashes Rats Across San Francisco
Wikimedia Commons / Edal Anton Lefterov

San Francisco is in the midst of a rat problem, and one woman's rodent obsession might be partly to blame.

"Authorities say a woman living in a residential hotel has been breeding them. And then releasing them into the public. Police say when they last checked she was living with 300 rats in deplorable living conditions." (Via KNTV)

KTVU obtained this 2011 footage of a rat-infested hotel room, which was formerly occupied by a 43-year-old woman known as "Erica J." or informally, "Rat Girl." San Francisco's animal control department says Erica compulsively breeds the rats, which then infest wherever she lives.

The city's Public Safety Department ultimately had to exterminate over one thousand rats in that hotel. Since then, animal control officers have been confiscating Erica's rats when they can, but they say she always seems to find more.

Since just one breeding pair of rats can produce up to 15,000 descendants in a year, according to National Geographic, Rat Girl's furry friends are causing a major headache for the city.

An animal control official told KTVU prosecuting Erica is unlikely to solve the problem. "I believe that there's a serious underlying mental health issue that needs to be addressed. ... I can only imagine that this situation is probably going to continue wherever she lives until she gets the help that she needs."

And in case you need a reminder of why Rat Girl's hobby is a dangerous public health issue, the CDC has a comprehensive list of all the nasty diseases rats can carry. Ick.

Animal control has been able to adopt out some of Erica's confiscated rats which had already been domesticated — feral or diseased rats were euthanized.