Canada’s weirdest laws: It is illegal to own a pet rat in Alberta

Alberta is so serious about controlling rats that it has a provincial rat patrol as well as a rat hotline.
Alberta is so serious about controlling rats that it has a provincial rat patrol as well as a rat hotline. (Photo: REUTERS/Samrang Pring)

Rats!

Since the time of the bubonic plague, during the Middle Ages in Europe, rats have gained a terrible reputation in the West as being unclean and of spreading disease.

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The province of Alberta seemed to keep that in mind when it created laws prohibiting people from owning rats during the 1950’s that are still in effect today. In fact, Alberta prides itself as being known as a rat-free province —except that it isn’t quite true.

Just two years ago, Medicine Hat had an influx of rats at a landfill, which seriously threatened Alberta’s “rat-free” status. The horror!

However, sometimes rats happen, and as long as people don’t actively try take the rodents home as a pet, nobody will face charges.

What happens to people who keep pet rats in Alberta?

Those who do keep the critters as a pet face fines of $5,000 per rat. A few years ago, three pet rats were ferreted out at two Calgary residences, and the residents were warned that they could face charges.

Alberta is so serious about controlling rats that it has a provincial rat patrol as well as a rat hotline, which can be reached toll-free at 310-RATS.

But wait, there’s more!

To show you that Alberta means business in keeping illegal rats out of the province, the department of agriculture and forestry has published detailed descriptions of the fugitives, which include diagrams and composite sketches of the furry fiends, making sure Albertans are certain they spotted a rat when they call the hotline.

However, some people are quite upset with the anti-rat laws and think it’s time to lift the ban. A petition is going around demanding that pet rats be legalized in Alberta. The petition also claims that there is evidence that the cause of the bubonic plague was not rats but humans.

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Whichever side of the debate Albertans are on, the ban on owning the rodent remains.

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