A mice infestation in an abandoned pet store caused an odor problem for neighboring tenants in a Grass Valley shopping center, according to Nevada County's environmental health department.
Workers are cleaning up the empty Pet Mine, at the Pine Creek Center on Freeman Lane. This week, representatives from the owner of the shopping center will meet with county officials to discuss their progress on purging the pests.
Meanwhile, the Pet Mine owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a spokesman for the shopping center owner, New York-based Kimco Realty Corp.
Pine Creek Veterinary Clinic closed temporarily Thursday because of the stench of dead animals coming from the abandoned retail space next door, veterinarian Ron Rosner said.
"There were (rodent) problems next door. We were having a lot of problems with the smell, but they are resolving it," said an employee of Rosner's who spoke on his behalf and asked not to be named.
Inspectors from the environmental health department were at the store Friday after a property manager from Kimco Realty Corporation notified the department of the problem, said Wesley Nicks, director of environmental health. The doors were locked, but inspectors saw evidence of cleaning supplies inside, Nicks said.
The infestation is believed to be contained within the vacant store, and no immediate health risks are associated with it, Nicks said. No other tenants have reported mice, he added.
"The pet store closed, and there are still mice in there. These are pet mice or feeder mice from a pet store. I would think they are fairly easy to get under control," Nicks said.
Pet Mine owners Brian and Sandy Fox could not be reached for comment. Eight-year Pet Mine employee Damien Patterson, who now works at Muttley's Pet Emporium, said he believes his former bosses moved out of state.
"They just left everyone in the dark," Patterson added.
"We discovered the tenant, Pet Mine, had signs on their window stating they were closed for remodeling this May," said property manager Roy Rodriguez, of center owner Kimco Realty Corp.
"When we were unable to reach the tenant for information on the remodel, we suspected they had vacated, and posted a Notice of Abandonment," Rodriguez said. "This was on June 24. We were able to change the locks, but not to enter the premises, on July 14. The tenant filed for bankruptcy on or about July 15. To date ... we still do not have legal possession of the premises."
Late last week, large sheets of paper could be seen covering up the windows with an announcement of a remodel and future grand opening scrawled across. Through the glass front door, pet food and other products could be seen lining shelves. A mouse trap was set on the floor, and mouse droppings lay about.
"They've left all their stuff. I wouldn't doubt if it attracted rodents with all that dog food in there. Nothing in there has changed. It's like they just shut the doors and left," said Gail Bandy, owner of Maui Beach Hut Tanning located two doors down.
Pest control firm hired
"Upon receiving calls from an adjacent tenant that there was an infestation of mice in the space, we entered the space on Aug. 8 and found evidence that many mice had been abandoned by the tenant. At that time, we coordinated an abatement of the infestation with our pest control company," Kimco's Rodriguez said in a statement.
A pest control company set traps for the mice Aug. 15, a veterinary office employee said. By Aug. 18, the stink of dead animals was wafting outside the vacant pet store and into Rosner's adjacent clinic.
Crews came out the next day to clean up, but the odor lingered, the woman said.
Kimco hired Champ Pest Control based in Orangevale, Rodriguez said. Crews "have been trapping and cleaning the premises since," he added.
Thursday afternoon, the company removed dead rodents and traps from the site, an employee of Rosner's said.
Kimco Realty Corp. owns the Pine Creek Shopping Center where large tenants Raley's, JCPenny, Starbucks and Blockbuster operate business. Kimco owns hundreds of shopping centers nationwide.
"We believe we have been pro-active handling this issue and doing everything we can to bring the space back to leasable condition," Rodriguez said.
"They are assuring us they are cleaning up and going to eradicate the pests. They're definitely making progress. It looks like they're taking care of it," Nicks said.
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4231.