This article appeared recently in a New Zealand newspaper. Damn, is this legend widespread! (The notes at the end were added by the person who posted this to the alt.folklore.suburban newsgroup.)

Rat rumour baffles MAF
by Martin van Beynen

MAF quarantine officers are being driven mad in their search for a mysterious and probably fictitious foreign rat.

Reports of the rat first surfaced last week after a rumour that a Lyttelton couple had rescued what they thought was a white-haired chihuahua from the water.

According to the story, the couple took the creature home, dried it off, and fed it, only to have it later attack and kill their cat. They then took both animals to the veterinarian, who dispatched the foundling, telling the shocked couple they had rescued a rat which had probably escaped from a ship at Lyttelton.

MAF quarantine's South Island manager, John Burton, said yesterday the service was obliged to investigate because of the serious consequences of such an animal coming ashore.

"But so far it has been driving us mad. We have not been able to catch up with anybody who has actually been involved in this. Everyone has heard the rumour.

"The more we hear the less likely it is becoming. It started off as a Korean rat, then it became a Korean freezer rat, then a Taiwanese rat, and the latest is that it's an otter."

If such an animal existed it could be carrying rabies and if it was a pregnant female, a poplation could become established.

He asked anyone who has definite information to contact the service on 555-9999. The service was not out to punish anyone but wanted information which could clear the matter up, he said.

The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand, 22 May 1998 front page
MAF - Ministry of Agriculture
Lyttelton - major port near Christchurch
Christchurch - largest city in South Island of NZ.
There is no rabies in New Zealand.
The original news article contained a real phone number.

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