Mouse House runs into potential snag as owners try to reopen - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Mouse House runs into potential snag as owners try to reopen

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It's been a rat race for a rodent-breeding facility trying to reopen.

The Vanderburgh County business known as the 'Mouse House' was shut down in April after workers became sick from a rodent-born illness known as LCMV or Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus.  The rodent-to-human infection causes flu-like to meningeal symptoms.

At least eight workers who had direct contact with infected mice were sickened at the Darmstadt facility.

Now, the owners are running into problems to get the approval they need to start where they left off.

"People can get LCMV from pet hamsters, which could be infected or from the common house mouse," said an attorney Maria Worthington, representing the Mouse House Owner.

The 'Mouse House' breeds lab mice and rats for zoos and animal suppliers.

The virus is uncommon in a clinical breeding facility. The owners say the infection was caused by a wild mouse.

"We took every precaution, but it's like everybody's house, you may sometimes get a spider or mouse in there, and this is what happened to us," said Mouse House owner Dennis Bittner.

In April, 170,000 mice were removed and buried. The animal feed and bedding were burned.

Forty-two workers were laid off and the facility was shut down and cleaned.

Now, the owners now want to re-open. But, at the Area Plan Commission Thursday, the owners meet opposition from neighbors, who said the facility doesn't follow open burning rules.

"It's not that the neighborhood just started complaining about it, it's just that we never had an opportunity to be heard about it," said neighbor Jeff Hatfield.

The Area Plan Commission recommended the owners be denied their request to keep the entire property zoned agricultural.

"I'd be rather questionable on whether he should even should have had this type of a business," said Area Plan Member Marty Amsler.

"This is not an agricultural activity, it should have never been allowed to start to begin with," said Hatfield.

The Darmstadt Town Council is scheduled to have the final say on permits at its meeting on October 9th at Salem Church.

If owners are denied the request to keep the property zoned fully agricultural, the owners say they'll still be able to raise mice there, but they will have to ship the rodents to an industrial zoned property for euthanization and packaging.

The Mouse House opened in 2001 with no major problems before this outbreak.

Officials say all infected workers have recovered.

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