NEW PORT RICHEY — Chloé Kodrun stood in the 90-degree heat Thursday dressed as a giant furry white rat. The college student from Montreal spent an hour waving at the cars driving past Lowe's, sweltering under a layer of synthetic fur.
"My discomfort is nothing compared to the mouse who gets stuck in a glue trap," Kodrun said, sounding both resigned and determined.
She and two others with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals came from Virginia to protest the local sale of glue traps for rats, mice and insects. They pointed to a New Port Richey ordinance that prohibited the use of "inhumane" traps, including glue ones.
They waved black-and-white signs that said: "Glue Traps: Illegal in New Port Richey, Inhumane Everywhere."
Well, not quite illegal.
New Port Richey's city code once included a ban on glue traps, which use adhesive and bait to capture rodents and insects. But in January 2009, the city adopted Pasco County's animal code, which makes no mention of glue traps. The city's old ban is no longer in force, City Clerk Linda Kann said.
And at any rate, the Lowe's on Little Road is about a mile and a half outside the city limits.
"We just picked this one because it's the closest one to New Port Richey," said Caroline Slocum, one of the three PETA protesters.
Fellow protester Lauren Stroyeck said other PETA staff had discovered the city's old ban on glue traps over a month ago, prompting the protest. She did not know the ordinance was no longer in effect.
"Lowe's is really defying the spirit of the law by selling these," she said, reeling off the evils a glue trap can inflict on a rodent: Dehydration. Starvation. Forcing a mouse or rat to chew off its own limbs to try to escape. Sometimes birds or even small kittens get caught in the traps, according to PETA.
"Did y'all want a leaflet?" she added as Jeanne Kopoian and her granddaughter, 11-year-old Kristin, approached. The pair had pulled over after Kristin begged to get a closer look at the giant rat.
While Jeanne took a leaflet, Kristin ran toward Kodrun, still in costume. "Can I hug you?" she asked. Then, "Can I take a picture with you?"
"Bye, Mr. Rat!" Kristin shouted as she left with her mother, who said their family never uses glue traps anyway.
When Joseph Benson's 2-year-old son, Brave, saw the giant rat across the parking lot, he started making squeaking noises. Benson decided to let Brave pet the rat before taking him to the park.
He, too, usually uses live catch traps.
"Glue traps are pretty nasty," he said. "They get ripped apart."
This isn't PETA's first visit to Pasco: In March, the animal rights organization alleged inmates in the Pasco County jail's agriculture program were mutilating pigs. The Sheriff's Office investigated and found no evidence of abuse.
More recently, the organization has turned to glue traps. Several chain stores, including CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Albertsons, have agreed to stop carrying them. PETA is in talks with Home Depot to persuade the company to do the same, Stroyeck said. Lowe's has declined to join the list, she said.
"Everybody's entitled to their own thing; we just don't agree," said Lowe's store manager Trish Angilella. Angilella said she had never had a rodent problem — until Thursday, of course.
Angilella's store carries not only Tomcat glue traps, but also traditional snap traps and poison bait. Lowe's also sells live catch traps, which PETA recommends for stopping rodent infestations.
Lowe's spokeswoman Karen Cobb said the chain has reduced its glue trap offerings from four to two varieties as a result of conversations with PETA. But she said Lowe's has a responsibility to provide customers with the products they need, and a survey three years ago showed customers prefer glue traps for affordability and convenience.
The Home Depot on the other side of Little Road offers a similar selection of rodent control solutions, including glue traps and live catch traps.
"I understand animal rights, but we've got all kinds of things that kill," said Christine Warnock, a Home Depot customer service representative.
Told of PETA's concerns, however, she reconsidered. "I guess that makes sense. I never thought about that before."