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Anorak | The Rat Ladies Of The Palisades

The Rat Ladies Of The Palisades

by | 4th, August 2008

TABLIOD Baby writes from Los Angeles of the Rat Ladies of the Palisades:

In our town at the end of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, the talk is of the cover story of the LA Weekly that arrived in newspaper boxes and storefronts on Thursday. “Rathouse of The Palisades” tells of two elderly identical twin sisters who live in a small house near the downtown area who’ve been feeding rats for decades:

Asks TB: So who’s going to show up first to rip off the story? 20/20? Dateline? Our bet is on Inside Edition, in which case no one will notice.”

The story:

At 34, Denham stood out as being at least 30 years younger than almost everyone else in the room. He began, “Hi, my name is Scott Denham. I just moved in to the Palisades with my wife and two young children. … [Twenty seconds left.] I’m here because we have a major, major rodent problem. There’s an infestation on my neighbor’s property. It’s spilling over, and it’s posing a serious health risk to my family. … [Ten seconds left.] I need your help. We’re not getting any help from the city or the county. …”

It turned 9 p.m. Blank stares. What’s this guy talking about? Some council members started stacking chairs. Taking pity on Denham, an aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl who was sitting in the back, and who is assigned to the Palisades, stepped in, telling Denham, “I got it. We’re on it.”

The evening’s minutes would later recall this extremely brief exchange between Rosendahl’s aide and Denham with a great deal of added — and, it turns out, ridiculously optimistic — political flourish: “[Rosendahl’s deputy] reported that the Councilman’s Office has contacted the appropriate agencies in the City and the issue is being addressed as expeditiously as possible.”

Had Denham been given more than the time of day that night, he would have told them a tale beyond belief about one of the richest enclaves in the United States. His sweet old neighbor ladies, identical twins, had spent years fanatically feeding the Palisades’ rat population. Although the full dimensions of the environmental and health damage done by the peculiar pair are unknown, experts contacted by L.A. Weekly estimate that the ladies’ actions may have added tens of thousands, even 500,000, new rats to L.A.’s Westside.

Chris Conlan, a longtime inspector with San Diego County Vector Control, says, “That number could be monstrous. You could get numbers approaching hundreds of thousands of rats. It’s impossible to quantify.” The case gives pause to the seen-everything-twice Animal Care and Control department in New York. “That’s definitely one for the books for us!” declares Richard Gentles, of that city’s huge animal-control bureaucracy. “This is the first time I’ve heard of someone living with that many rats. We don’t have problems to that level.”

The agency charged with stopping them — the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health — visited repeatedly, saw rats through the windows of the sisters’ home and did virtually nothing to end the threat to the public, the neighbors or the sisters themselves. Nor did the office of City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo act without weeks of foot-dragging and buck-passing.

Now, sisters Marjorie and Margaret Barthel are in court, facing a lawsuit filed by neighbors Scott and Liz Denham. The Denhams were forced to exact their own form of vermin justice in the civil courts after discovering that multiple agencies, from Los Angeles County to City Hall, allowed a Westside rat boom to reel out of control — until the Denhams acted to put a stop to it. While the scenes were straight out of Willard, the message is that in Los Angeles, much of local government is broken.

The womens’ house has not been repainted – just in time for the TV crews…



Posted: 4th, August 2008 | In: Strange But True Comments (13) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink