A transient San Francisco woman, nicknamed "Rat Girl" by Animal Care & Control due to her fondness for the rodents, is accused of breeding a small horde of rats and releasing them in local parks.

According to Animal Care & Control, the 43-year-old woman, also known as "Erica J.," used to breed rats in her room in an SRO on Minna Street, where she lived in 2011. Her colony eventually numbered over a thousand before the Public Health Department had to be called in to exterminate and Animal Care & Control actually started to become concerned for Erica's mental health.

In the intervening three years, Erica has been in and out of housing and living on the streets. At one point she had rats living with her on a cart underneath the Japantown pedestrian bridge. Most recently, Erica has been living in the mini-park at Golden Gate Avenue and Steiner Street, where she would feed her rodent friends dog food out of a bowl. When she was reported to Animal Care and Control, the responding officer found that the eight or so rodents she had with her had taken up residence of their own in the park.

"The officer that responded noted that they had been there for some time. They had actually sort of dug a maze and had areas to tunnel and burrow," Animal Care & Control Captain Denise Bongiovanni told KTVU. "We collected seven, unfortunately I believe one of them was really sick and died in transport. We impounded the rest."

Surprisingly, some of Erica's brood have even been adopted by the AC&C, but Bongiovanni says Erica can get very attached to them and has been known to hide them if she believes they'll be taken from her. Although she has been reported by everyone from her social worker to landlords to local residents, Erica is apparently hard to track down and the compassionate folks at Animal Control are reluctant to have her prosecuted under the municipal code, hoping instead that she will find the mental health treatment she needs.

KTVU has more:

Previously: 'Waterfall Full Of Rats' Plague SoMa, Your Dreams
Central Subway Rat Army Now Invading North Beach
All rat coverage on SFist