JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Humane Society thrift store was forced to close Thursday because of a rat infestation.
Officials from JHS said the only way to fix the problem at the building on Beach Boulevard is to shut down as they deep-clean the store from front to back. The cleanup will take at least 30 days.
JHS executive director Denise Deisler said the large building has many little nooks and crannies: plenty of areas rats can get into and start nesting. That makes the problem much worse.
They've known about the problem for a couple of months, and they decided now was the time to shut down before the problem gets worse.
The thrift store is a big moneymaker for the Humane Society next door.
Day-to-day operations for JHS cost about $5 million a year. Nearly $200,000 of that is earned from sales at the thrift store, which works out to at least $15,000 a month.
"Any time we lose an income stream, that's a concern," Deisler said. "But we are absolutely confident about the generosity of our community and that they'll rise to the occasion. We're committed to our mission, and we will figure out how to make up for that. But again, at the end of the day, we had to make the right decision."
Nine store employees will also have to be moved elsewhere, Deisler said. If they decide they don't want to do that, they're eligible for unemployment.
A lot of people were surprised when they showed up at the thrift store Thursday.
Steve Crenshaw said he pulled up and saw the signs saying that no one was getting in.
"I know places have them; I know they're around, but the black plague comes to mind, I guess," Crenshaw said. "I mean, rodents caused the black plague."
While the problem certainly isn't that big, it is an issue the Humane Society is keeping tabs on. Officials said after the cleanup, they'll secure the building so the problem won't start up again.
The thrift store's temporary closure doesn't mean people have to stop donating items.
Pet-related items, including blankets and towels, can still be delivered to the Humane Society at its warehouse at 8464 Beach Blvd.
A sign on the door also encourages donors to take any other items to the thrift store at First Coast No More Homeless Pets "to continue to help all animals in Jacksonville." The FCNMHP store is at 6721 Norwood Ave.