ROCK FALLS – A Rock Falls family is being forced from its rental home after a bat infestation caused city inspectors to condemn the house.
Carla Dennison rents the upstairs apartment at 406-406 1/2 Seventh Ave. from Wedad Farraj, who lives in Polo. Dennison, who has been battling breast cancer, now must find a safe place for herself and two family members. It was also recommended that they get rabies shots.
Further complicating matters is that her two dogs didn’t have their rabies shots. By law, the dogs, a mastiff and a chihuahua-dachshund mix, must be quarantined for 6 months or euthanized.
The dogs were picked up from Whiteside County Animal Control by a Rock Falls veterinary clinic, Advanced Animal Health Center. Donations are being taken there so the family can pay the bill.
Despite talk on social media to the contrary, the clinic said there is no euthanasia deadline.
“The only way the dogs would be euthanized is if they developed rabies, and except for some stress from being taken out of their home, they are looking very good,” said Tammy Sigel, a veterinary assistant at the clinic.
Boarding animals that long is cost-prohibitive for many people, but in addition to the donations, the clinic is giving Dennison a break.
“It would usually be $6,000 just for the boarding and $100 apiece for the rabies shots, but we’re only charging $2,000 for the boarding,” Sigel said.
If more than $2,000 is raised, the remainder will be used to help the family with its housing situation, Sigel said.
The health department, which helped facilitate the transfer of the dogs to the veterinary clinic, said this situation is a reminder of why pets need to be vaccinated.
“We keep telling the public that if animals don’t get their rabies shots, and something like this happens, they’re looking at a 6-month quarantine, which is too expensive for most people to do, or they must be euthanized,” County Health Administrator Beth Fiorini said. “There are good reasons for having these rules, and people just need to follow them.”
After complaints from neighbors, the city inspected the home about a week ago and found between 200 and 300 bats in the walk-up attic. The Whiteside County Health Department was also called to the home. The bats had been getting into the living area daily.
“I’ve never seen that many bats in one place,” City Building Inspector Mark Searing said. “There were holes in the fascias, roof vents with no screens, and a lot of nooks and crannies where they could have come in.”
The family, which was not available for comment, is trying to make arrangements to stay elsewhere, but as of Thursday, they still were at the condemned home, the city said.
If the bat problem is addressed, the house will again be deemed livable by the city, but with the owner currently out of the country, communication has been difficult.
The case has been referred to the city attorney. If the situation drags on, the city could have the work done by professionals, which wouldn’t come cheap, and then be reimbursed by the owner.
“Bats are protected species, and an animal removal service would have to use special extraction tools to get them out safely,” Searing said.
The city has had other problems at the property. There is a list of code violations including no working smoke alarms, drains that had been sealed by duct tape, uncapped gas lines, electrical issues, and there is no heat in the upstairs apartment. Another of the owner’s Rock Falls rental properties had received a citation when a roof was put on without a permit.
The Farraj family also owns several properties in Sterling.
HOW TO HELP
Donations for the Dennison family can be made to Advanced Animal Health Center, 601 W. U.S. Route 30 in Rock Falls.