The 41-second-long video, posted on Facebook by user "Fe Bugout" on February 5, begins with a man walking through the doors of the fast food establishment with a white rat in a small cage, as a boy clamors to "let me hold it!"
While the video caption only reads "downtown Newark" with a bunch of grinning emojis, CBS 3 Philadelphia reported that it happened at the 772 Broad Street location.
As the man walks into the center of the crowded restaurant, few heads turn to notice what he's carrying. However, as he struggles with the container's lid, a couple of shrieks can be heard as people slowly realize what's about to happen.
When the container drops and the white rat hits the floor — that's when the chaos begins.
As patrons leap over counters and half-walls to pile out of the doors or behind the cash registers, the rat seems unfazed and begins to poke around under one of the tables.
The video has been shared over 5,000 times since being posted. The well-over-1,000 comments express a mixture of amusement and disgust at the antics, which the cameraman seems likely to have been in on.
"The safety of our customers and the cleanliness of our restaurants are our top priorities," Celest Quintana, the owner of the McDonald's franchise in question, told NJ101.5. She indicated that "restaurant staff thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the dining area and contacted the police. We are currently working with local law enforcement to identify the person responsible for this deliberate act."
No arrests have been made, but a Newark Police spokesperson told NJ.com Monday that an investigation is underway.
As for the rat? It "exited the restaurant through the front door," a McDonald's spokesperson told NJ.com.
The Philly Voice noted that similar pranks have been carried out in the region in the past, recalling an incident in which of bags of live mice were released in an Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, pizza shop on multiple occasions as part of an intense rivalry between pizzerias. A rival pizza shop owner was arrested in 2011 for acts reportedly described by Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood as "terrorism by mice."