Chelsey Johnson, 23, has been a happy “rat mom” for three years. She currently owns six pet rats. Here, two of her female rats Rayna (left) and Lilo (right) vie for her attention. Johnson says rats make excellent pets as they are usually affectionate with people and easy to care for. (Contributed)

‘Aggressive’ pet rat results in denied taxi ride for Okanagan woman

Attack leads to frustrating, saddening experience with taxi driver for rat owner

A Penticton woman was dismayed after she was refused taxi service while trying to transport bleeding baby rats to the vet.

Chelsey Johnson, 23, has been a proud owner of pet rats for three years. However, her recent experience with a driver for the Penticton-based taxi service Klassic Kabs has her wishing some people would have more respect for her pet of choice.

Johnson had just purchased two new baby rats “the size of Bic lighters with legs” from a local pet shop with a friend.

Her plan was to have the babies share a cage with a six-month-old male rat which had recently been re-homed to her. So she brought the adult rat along with her to pick-up the two babies.

While waiting for a taxi to head home with her three rats, the adult rat, named Drake, attacked the two babies, killing one and badly injuring the other. While Johnson was trying to separate the rats, Drake also bit her hand.

Johnson’s two baby rats, unnamed (left) and Obie (right) died after being attacked by her six-month-old pet rat, Drake. (Contributed)

With one dead baby rat, one hanging on for its life and another murderous rat, Johnson was suddenly in need of a veterinarian.

“As soon as he killed those babies I was like ‘we need to go to the vet, we need to put the baby down and I need to euthanize this obviously aggressive rat,’” said Johnson.

When her taxi arrived, Johnson told the driver she needed to go back into the pet shop to wash the blood off her hand and then head straight to the vet.

The driver was caught off-guard and would not transport Johnson and her rats to the vet.

“If that was somebody’s dog or cat that had just been hit by a car, I’m sure he wouldn’t have hesitated,” said Johnson of the cab driver.

Taxi drivers have the right to refuse service to anyone at their own discretion, explained Shawna Severinski, dispatch manager for Klassic Kabs.

Drake, a six-month-old rat that was recently re-homed to Johnson, had to be re-homed once more after he fatally attacked two baby rats outside a Penticton PetSmart. (Contributed)

Severinski said in this case the driver refused service because of COVID-19 concerns. “Basically, with COVID-19 there was no way we could allow open blood into the car under any circumstances,” said Severinski. “That’s really the only reason the driver wouldn’t take them, because the animals were attacking each other and bleeding all over the place.

“Every driver has the right to refuse service on any trip.”

A life-long owner of rats herself, Severinski expressed great sympathy for Johnson. “I’m so, so sorry for her loss. I understand (Johnson’s frustration) completely. But unfortunately, in this circumstance, I understand the driver’s point of view as well,” Severinski said. “We have to think of the safety of all of our customers.”

Johnson said she would not have had a problem with the driver refusing service if he would have done it in a different manner. “He could have done it many other ways rather than laugh and be disgusted and drive away,” she said.

The Western News has attempted to contact the driver but he was not immediately available for comment.

After being denied service, Johnson called a different local taxi company, Eco-Cab.

Darren Regnier was the Eco-Cab driver who eventually picked-up Johnson and her rats, he also happens to manage the company.

Not only did Regnier accept Johnson and her rats into his vehicle; he was quick to jump out of his car and assist in any way possible, said Johnson.

He says he had no qualms about giving Johnson a ride because the rats were in a carrier and she had washed away any blood. “She was very careful to tell me right away with what she dealing with,” said Regnier.

Regnier was not concerned, he said, because the extensive cleaning measures his company has put in place due to COVID-19 have made it very easy to clean his cab. “We sanitize the cars after every trip now anyways,” he said.

He also had no concerns about rat, or even human, blood spreading coronavirus. ““It’s just a common sense thing to me,” said the long-time taxi driver. “I don’t see the correlation between COVID and a rat. It (coronavirus) spreads from droplets from your sinuses or mouth.”

Health authorities have confirmed Regnier’s thoughts to be true.

READ MORE: Can mosquitoes spread COVID-19? WHO says no

Regnier said Johnson’s situation was tame compared to many other situations he’s seen during his 26 years of driving a taxi.

“Some of the characters we pick-up in this business… a little blood from a rat or on her finger… how many people do we pick-up that have cuts on their hands, you know? People are dirty. I’ve picked up a lot of people that are really dirty,” said Regnier.

Regnier does, however, agree that the initial taxi driver was within his rights when he refused Johnson service.

But he also echoed Johnson’s thought that the driver could have refused service in a more professional manner. “We do have the right to refuse anybody and I really believe in that rule,” he said. “But the way he went about it was the problem. He made a joke, he laughed about it, he was very sarcastic from what I understand and that, to me, was the problem.”

Upon arriving at the vet, Johnson was able to have the injured baby rat put-down humanely and also found a home without any other rats for the older, aggressive rat.

Currently the happy owner of six other pet rats, Johnson says, after this experience, she’ll be sticking to Eco-Cab from now on.

Johnson holds three of her “newest babes” Stuart Little (left) Jimmy Neutron (middle) and Dennis the Menace (right). (Contributed)



jesse.day@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusPets

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

The Spences Bridge Improvement District is looking for someone to fill the position of fire chief, and is also looking for people willing to stand as a candidate for the SBID board; elections will take place at the AGM on Nov. 28. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Candidates for trustee, fire chief wanted in Spences Bridge

Elections will be held during Spences Bridge Improvement District AGM on Nov. 28

Looking west from the Mesa to the Ashcroft Reserve at the start of the Elephant Hill wildfire, July 7, 2017. Students at Desert Sands Community School are looking to interview locals about their direct experience with the 2017 wildfires. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Students looking for people to share their 2017 wildfire stories

Desert Sands Community School students want to speak with residents about wildfire experiences

BC 2020 election graphic
Elections BC estimates 52% of BC voters cast a ballot this year

Results are down from 2017, and final counts will have to wait until mail-in ballots are tallied

An operator works to clear the culvert at Quartz Road in Cache Creek during flooding in April 2020. The Village of Cache Creek is looking for local contractors who want to go on a list for any work (emergency and non-emergency) that is needed. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Village of Cache Creek calling all contractors willing to work

Plus a Halloween drive-in movie event, an AGM, Christmas market news, and more

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports seven more COVID-19 cases

Eighty-nine cases remain active, none of whom are currently hospitalized

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Most Read