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Matilda, unwelcome because of Alberta's strict controls, is heading to the more laid-back province of B.C. to start a new life. ((CBC))

Matilda was just a newcomer to Alberta, but the rat quickly found herself on the wrong side of the law and could have paid the ultimate price.

The rat belonged to a family who just moved to Calgary and was unaware of Alberta's 60-year-old ban on rats.

"No rats, no how, no way," said Bill Bruce, director of Calgary's animal and bylaw services.

After hearing about the province's strictly enforced rodent policy — which requires rats to be euthanized — the owners turned Matilda in.

"Matilda came to us as a surrender. They turned it in because they wanted to be law abiding. So the person did the right thing," said Bruce.  

But Matilda has been spared the usual fate, thanks to a little networking with neighbouring B.C., a province that has not banned rats.

"Fortunately, the staff took a little bit of a liking to her and made some contact in British Columbia with a rescue that had the capacity to take her," said Bruce.

No crime committed

Added Dr. Marta Alguacil, a veterinarian with Calgary's animal and bylaw services: "There is really no reason to put her down. Her only crime is being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

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Alberta has jealously guarded its rat-free status for 60 years. ((CBC))

Matilda flew to Vancouver on Friday aboard a WestJet flight, escorted by an anonymous donor who paid for the trip.

The animal will spend three weeks in quarantine under the care of Little Mischief Rescue.

The organization has saved 402 rats from all over Canada since it started operating three years ago, said spokeswoman Teresa Zurberg, who insists that rats make good pets.

"They are very smart, very clean. You can train them," she said. "Rats are ticklish. You can actually tickle a rat."

Once Matilda gets a clean bill of health, she will be moving in with her new adoptive family and another rat named Batman.