The Animal House and Rabbits and the Home Office

The Animal House and Rabbits


They put me in charge of the Animal House.

I know. Hard to imagine.

Maybe they thought I was better off out of the way where nobody could see me. I had hair down to my waist and a bit of attitude.

The Animal was a large closed off building with two big livestock rooms and an office and washroom. The windows were opaque and high up.

There were meant to be two of us but I was happy to work it on my own. It gave me freedom. My job was to feed, water, clean and care for the animals.

I loved animals. I had two thousand rats, forty rabbits, a couple of thousand mice, a hundred guinea pigs and a half dozen cats. I was in my element. The only downside was that they were destined for dissection, vivisection and experimentation. But I figured that it was better to have someone who cared looking after them than someone who didn’t.

I cared.

I had a schedule. Twice a day (including weekends) I topped up water bottles and food hoppers. Once every two days I cleaned out cages and changed sawdust. Once a week I washed cages. I kept it on a rota.

I would get orders for rats for dissection or other animals for experimentation. I had to kill them and pass them over. That was a real downer.

I found that if I really got a move on I could get all the work done, lock the door and read. I got a good four hours reading in a day. In many ways it was my ideal job. Nobody hassled me. I was on my own. I could play music. I had a lot of animals to pet and care for and I could read.

If it hadn’t been for the death part it would have been perfect. But then I rationalised that it was better that I killed them humanely than some plonker who didn’t care.

On my first day I walked round the place and checked out the state of affairs. It was not good. The rabbits seemed to be worst off. They were in cages so small that they could not even turn round. They sat on a grill through which they shat and peed onto a tray of sawdust. They sucked on a water bottle and ate food that were like nuts of sawdust. It looked dire to me. At least the rats, cats and guinea pigs were in communal cages. The rabbits were fat and bored out of their heads.

I went for a walk around the outside of the animal house. To the side was a bit of grassy wasteland.

I walked round the college and collected and scrounged lengths of board and planks. I bought some galvanised chicken wire. It took me two days to build a rabbit proof enclosure.

The first time I took the big fat rabbits out there and plonked them on the ground they looked utterly bemused. They sat looking frightened, noses twitching, eyes blinking in the sunlight, frozen. After a few minutes they started looking around. Then they started stretching out their necks, looking round, sniffing and checking out the grass. They started nibbling and shuffling forward. Within a half hour they were bounding around, kicking the air in delight and bonking each other from either end in a mad orgy. I could see they loved it.

Every morning I would put them out and every evening I’d put them back. They lost weight and looked contented. I added the guinea pigs who strutted about squeaking and chuntering in macho challenging manner. It was idyllic.

I started plans for the construction of a huge multilevel rat cage complete with ladders, climbing and playgrounds.

Somebody must have mentioned the rabbit run I had built. I must admit it did look a bit Heath Robinson – but it was effective. I received a visit. A delegation came round. They were silent and refused to speak to me. They inspected the enclosure and walked away.

I knew that wasn’t good news.

The next day I received written instructions to take down the enclosure and return the animals to sterile conditions that applied to animals housed according to Home Office regulations. I went to complain. I was told that I either did it or was sacked. It was Home Office rules. They were Home Office animals.

I took down my rabbit enclosure and set up a rabbit run in the washroom. It wasn’t as good but it was better than nothing.

The rat enclosure was put on hold for the time being.

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