Cats and dogs often make the Humane Society of Washington County's lost and found list. Occasionally a bird or farm animal makes the list.
Someone dropped off 28 adult rats and two baby rats on Monday, humane society officials said Wednesday.
The person who brought them in said the rats were found loose around a tree on the grounds of Western Heights Middle School in Hagerstown's West End, according to Chris Taylor, a customer service representative with the humane society.
Principal Stephen Tarason said he and a school building manager were notified by 911 dispatch on Saturday about the rats, which were found under a pine tree by a stormwater area behind the school. That area is in the back part of the yard and is not a playground area.
A Hagerstown police officer called 911 dispatch around noon Saturday to report finding 40 to 50 rats in that area, according to Washington County Emergency Services.
Tarason said the building manager told him the rats were sitting under the pine tree, petrified. Someone might have dumped them on school grounds or in the nearby woods, he said.
They were like pets because they would come when called, he said.
A school employee has a sister who works at a Smithsburg veterinarian's office so the rats were caged and spent the rest of the weekend at the vet's office, Tarason said.
Then on Monday the rats were taken to the humane society, he said.
Debbie McClain, the humane society's manager of animal care and customer service, said pets rats are very clean and highly intelligent. They can learn tricks easily and can learn their names so they come when called. They make great pets for children and can be walked on a leash.
Rat pellet food can be purchased to feed the rats, McClain said. They also eat pieces of fruit, vegetables, crackers, just about anything, she said.
The rats could have been pets or feeder rats, to be fed to an animal such as a snake, McClain said.
The 28 adult rats are of various colors — apricot, white, black, and black and white, while the babies are pink, McClain said.
McClain said she didn't know yet how many of them would be put up for adoption. They appear healthy and their social ability is being evaluated, she said.
They were pretty scared when they arrived, McClain said.
"They're wonderful pets, but I've never known anyone to have that many," McClain said.