“The squirrels are absolutely going to hate this announcement”: Students suspect petition to euthanize campus squirrels to be a prank

Ahead of April Fools’ Day, an anonymous lawsuit advocating the euthanasia of squirrels finds itself at the center of jokes and speculation.

A squirrel  climbing a tree looks straight at the camera.

A petition aiming to stop the euthanasia of all USC campus squirrels have recently dominated the social media spheres of students.

Garnering over 500 signatures, the petition is a response to a supposed lawsuit after an anonymous student was bitten by a squirrel and sought to have USC euthanize all squirrels to prevent future incidents. An Instagram account posted images of squirrels advocating against the lawsuit’s attempts at euthanasia.

However, with squirrels being a known part of campus life, many believe the situation to be an elaborate prank as April Fools’ Day approaches.

Communication student Tierney Kellish believes the whole thing to be a comical prank but also stated she wouldn’t be surprised if it were genuine.

“I think it could be real because people are just so crazy these days,” Kellish said. “I believe people will do anything to get attention, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a prank; it could go both ways.”

When searched on the Superior Court of California County of Los Angeles’ database, the case number of the lawsuit listed on the Instagram post did not match the database’s information. The case number “BC684392″ refers to a 2017 trial regarding professional healthcare malpractice.

Film production major Jackson Van Horn believes the lawsuit and petition are a ruse.

“I’m going to say it’s a ploy,” Horn said. “I feel like a lot of the kids here want attention and are willing to put (in) a lot of money and do anything to cause a stir.”

Despite suspecting the incident a hoax, Horn believes many students are negative about the squirrels on campus.

“I will say I think the squirrels get a very bad rap at the school,” Horn said. “I recently saw a short documentary made by one of my colleagues about it, and it’s quite interesting the ecosystem they have and how the students interact with them. I think they are an integral part of this campus, and I would hate to see anyone try and get rid of that.”

The lawsuit files posted on the Instagram account state that the plaintiff, a John Doe, is bringing complaints against the university for injuries and damages, including but not limited to “physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical expenses, lost wages and other damages to be proven at trial.”

According to the lawsuit, the anonymous plaintiff has requested compensation from USC, but USC has refused this request.

Besides squirrels, other rodents have previously faced scrutiny for their invasive personalities. Most notably, New York’s constant battle to exterminate the city’s rats has resulted in online memes and virality.

New York’s Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch stated in a news conference in October of 2022, “and I want to be clear: The rats are absolutely going to hate this announcement.”

“But the rats don’t run the city. We do.”

According to L.A. County’s Department of Public Health, squirrel bites are considered “not reportable” because they do not spread rabies and are considered the lowest-level threat amongst other animals like bats, raccoons, skunks, local dogs and cats.

For sophomore Darian Ahmadi, the lawsuit can result from individuals seeking attention in the social climate of virality.

“I mean, I support the squirrels. I think they have rights just as any other animal and people think they can be valued as maybe, like, it could be therapeutic for whatever reason,” Ahmadi said. “I just think people are such clout chasers these days, and they’ll do anything for [the] press, and it’s not fair to the squirrels, and I don’t fight for that.”