More than 100 pet rats were found living in dirty and overcrowded conditions at a Lancashire home.

Owner Sarah Jordan has been handed a four-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, after 74 of the rodents were found kept in soiled cages, with 38 running loose at the property.

The smell of ammonia was so overwhelming rescuers were struggling to breathe, the RSPCA said.

It said Jordan, 31, let the rats breed unchecked and neglected to treat several rats' health conditions.

Ms Jordan was given a suspended prison sentenceMs Jordan was given a suspended prison sentence (Image: RSPCA)

The RSPCA found multiple female rats were pregnant, later birthing around 80 babies while in the charity's care.

Preston Magistrates' Court heard animal rescue officer, Jess Pierce, and a vet went to Jordan's property on April 18, 2023, after concerns were raised over multiple rodents living in inadequate conditions.

Ms Pierce said: "As soon as we entered the smell of ammonia was overwhelming, it was stinging my eyes and it was very difficult to breathe.

"All the cages were filled with rats, they were also loose in the room.

"There were two large rat cages and three smaller cages.

“All the cages had beds and enrichment but there was no fresh food or water anywhere, the room was also very warm.

"There were a few rats with skin conditions and in poor bodily condition. I also witnessed one young rat drinking out of a leak in the radiator."

Some rats bore symptoms of stress-related fur loss and scabbing, and one had a large untreated wound on its neck.

A rat with hair lossA rat with hair loss (Image: RSPCA)

Jordan admitted to breeding the rats for sale, but claimed she ensured they went to "the best homes", and said she didn't see the pregnancies as an issue as she would just sell them too, and claimed all money made was spent on the animals.

Three rats were euthanised due to their extremely poor health while others were accommodated in RSPCA centres awaiting rehoming.

In addition to her suspended sentence, Jordan, from Leyland, was also given a 60-day curfew from 8pm to 7am.

She has also been banned from keeping all animals, apart from cats, for 15 years, following the investigation and prosecution by the RSPCA. 

In written evidence to the court, the vet who examined the animals at the RSPCA’s Greater Manchester Animal Hospital, said: “The owner of the rats had failed to provide an appropriate, safe, hazard-free and clean environment.

"Given the evidence presented I believe the rats were likely without food and water for a period of days. The environment - soiled, ammonia-smelling bedding - is likely to have developed over weeks.

“There was severe overcrowding in three of the four cages. This environmental failure is likely to have developed over several months. Eighty-nine of the 112 rats were of a socially mature age (greater than six months) and several were found to be pregnant.

“I would expect a responsible owner to contact a veterinarian for advice if they noticed hair loss or scabbing present on their rats. Another symptom I would expect an owner to seek veterinary advice for is respiratory disease.

"Regardless of the cause of the owner’ failings, steps to improve the rats welfare should have been taken much sooner, e.g. starting by reducing their numbers to a more manageable amount and splitting them into male and female groups to avoid further offspring.”