Thursday, June 5, 2014

You Can't Make This Stuff Up, But I Have A Solution

"San Francisco is in the midst of a rat problem, and one woman's rodent obsession might be partly to blame.

"Authorities say a woman living in a residential hotel has been breeding them. And then releasing them into the public. Police say when they last checked she was living with 300 rats in deplorable living conditions." (Via KNTV)

KTVU obtained this 2011 footage of a rat-infested hotel room, which was formerly occupied by a 43-year-old woman known as "Erica J." or informally, "Rat Girl." San Francisco's animal control department says Erica compulsively breeds the rats, which then infest wherever she lives.

The city's Public Safety Department ultimately had to exterminate over one thousand rats in that hotel. Since then, animal control officers have been confiscating Erica's rats when they can, but they say she always seems to find more.

Since just one breeding pair of rats can produce up to 15,000 descendants in a year, according to National Geographic, Rat Girl's furry friends are causing a major headache for the city.

An animal control official told KTVU prosecuting Erica is unlikely to solve the problem.

"I believe that there's a serious underlying mental health issue that needs to be addressed. ... I can only imagine that this situation is probably going to continue wherever she lives until she gets the help that she needs."

Attempts to intervene on the woman have been futile, according to NBC Bay Area: "Authorities say the woman moves when she is confronted about the problem."

And in case you need a reminder of why Rat Girl's hobby is a dangerous public health issue, the CDC has a comprehensive list of all the nasty diseases rats can carry. Ick.

Animal control has been able to adopt out some of Erica's confiscated rats which had already been domesticated - feral or diseased rats were euthanized."

...and here is the solution

It was well after nightfall. The pack of dogs was split into two groups and was led to opposite ends of a desolate alley in downtown Manhattan

A man collecting recyclable cans from the trash slipped out just before the owners unleashed the dogs.
The rat hunt was on.
The dogs raced toward a pile of trash bags in the middle of the alley, with the smaller dogs combing through the bags and chasing rats out toward the larger dogs.
Ernie, a 3-year-old hunt terrier, snapped up a fleeing rat in his jaws and gave him a hard shake. The rat quickly went limp. Ernie’s owner rejoiced over the kill — it was Ernie’s first, after just a few outings of hunting vermin.
This was another occasional outing for a group of dog owners who take their pets to downtown Manhattan to kill rats.
The hunts are conducted something like a country fox hunt, but in an urban setting. Members say it allows their dogs — mostly breeds known for chasing small game and vermin — to indulge in basic instinctual drives by killing a dozen or two dozen rats each time they are let loose.
“We don’t make a huge difference in the rat population, but the dogs have a lot of fun,” said Richard Reynolds, a main organizer of the group, which, in an effort to form the acronym RATS, he semiseriously calls the Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society (Ryders Alley was once a rat-infested lane downtown, and trencher-fed refers to the keeping of hounds to hunt). The group, which includes some members who travel from the suburbs, has been meeting for 15 years, mostly in downtown Manhattan in areas where trash is abundant.
“We love garbage — if there’s food around, there are rats,” said Mr. Reynolds, a dog breeder from Tenafly, N.J.
Just before the recent alley hunt, the group had met in City Hall Park, with the energetic little dogs straining their leashes toward the bushes and assuming pointing positions. A local resident who was walking his 12-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Chloe, stopped to chat, and was incredulous when told what the group was doing: using their dogs to find, catch and kill rats in the streets.
“You guys can do that?” asked Chloe’s owner, Andrew Luan, 42. “I mean, you won’t get tickets, the city’s O.K. with that?”
In fact, it would appear that the rat hunters are not violating any laws or health codes, and the plight of rats, at least those living on and below New York’s streets, does not generate the same level of passion as the plight of, say, the city’s carriage horses.
“The city loves us,” claimed Mr. Reynolds, casting his group as a free extermination force. He was wearing a tweed cap and gripping a spike-tipped walking stick, for poking garbage bags and for protection from the rodents.
Soon the hunting group entered the alley — Theater Alley, a deserted narrow lane just off Park Row — and they invited Mr. Luan to come. He accepted.
“Looks like we got a new member,” said Jimmy Hoffman, 37, who held Mighty, his 3-year-old Patterdale terrier, on a leash.
“Hopefully you’ll get some food tonight, huh Mighty?” said Mr. Hoffman, of Bellerose, Queens.
In the alley, Ernie’s owner said she was a veterinarian from Manhattan on her third hunt who asked that her name not be published because “it wouldn’t go over well with some of my clients.”
“Once he got a taste for it, he has not stopped looking” for rats, she said, adding the hunt “provides mental stimulation” for the dogs.
“They are using their brain,” she said. “It’s in their nature, it’s what they want to do, but in the city, it’s hard for them to do it.”
Hunting rats does pose risks, since they are known to carry diseases, including leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that often affects animals, but the veterinarian said it was not the season for it.
Mr. Reynolds said there had been a few lacerations to the dogs from rat bites and other mishaps, but nothing serious. Still, he said, he carries “a traveling field hospital” in his truck, just in case, and a staple gun in his pocket, to mend wounds.

The group sometimes gets tips from homeless people or police officers, Mr. Reynolds said. In fact, he said, some officers have gone from initially being suspicious of what they were doing to suggesting rat locations and wishing them luck.
In Theater Alley, he said, he had a homeless tipster who repaired old computers discarded by the J&R electronics store nearby and used the store’s Wi-Fi to go online.
“I used to bring him a turkey sandwich and a six-pack and he’d email me reports on the rats here,” Mr. Reynolds said.
Still, not everyone supports the rat hunts. Brian Shapiro, the New York State director for the Humane Society of the United States, said there were numerous cases of dogs biting rats and ingesting poison consumed by the rat.
This type of activity exposes dogs to the “likelihood of eventual toxic exposure,” he said, adding, “The more times the owners send them out, they are repeatedly exposing them to that risk — it’s not good guardianship for a dog.”
“They don’t choose to go into the alley — they are sent in,” he said of the dogs, and added, “This is not an effective means of pest control because they are not getting any significant number of rats.”
As for the rats, he said, “You want to address them in a manner that causes the least amount of suffering.”
A spokeswoman for the New York City Police Department said there was no information available on the legality of using dogs to hunt rats in the city.
Mr. Reynolds said he hated animal cruelty, but he argued that no harm had ever come to any of the dogs, and added that rat poison causes a slow, painful death, compared with a quick death in a dog’s jaws.
Mr. Hoffman, a veterinary technician, said he was not insensitive to the plight of the rat; in fact, he treats pet rats in his work as a veterinary technician in Queens.
“I got no prejudices, but hunting is hunting,” he said.
Another stop during a recent hunt was an outdoor plaza at the Seward Park Extension on Allen Street. A resident standing outside, Dolly Laureano, greeted the group and said that her mother had posted a note about the plaza on the hunting group’s Facebook page.
Next to the plaza, the group put a small dog inside a Dumpster behind the Seventh Precinct station house, at Delancey and Ridge Streets, and the rats came shooting out a single hole at the bottom, with the dogs in hot pursuit.
One darted under a parked Lexus and was cornered by Paco, a feisty dog belonging to Bill Reyna, from Wayne, N.J. Finally, the rat streaked out, and Paco chomped down on it and left it at the base of a No Parking sign. Mr. Reyna photographed the encounter and showed it to Mr. Hoffman.
“Whoa, that’s mid-shake,” Mr. Hoffman exclaimed. “That’s got to get framed on the wall.”

Having two vermin killing maniacs in my employ for many years lets me honestly get behind this idea. It also gives me some thoughts for a great post (about time!) ...stay tuned - Mugs


  1. When I was a kid, we had a pair of toy poodles who were killing machines. Whenever we'd get broilers in the spring, we'd set the poodles loose in the barn first, and they would take care of the rodents like nobody's business. The cats were pretty much worthless in this respect, but those two little white foo-foo dogs played for blood. Once they grabbed a full-grown turkey through the fence and tore its leg off. Not the brightest bulbs in the fixture, but they certainly knew how to hunt rodents.

  2. There is a need for this service. Long before Decon or other such killing agents the dogs were bred for this work.

    There is a guy in the Sonoma County area who has a team of Ratters that can get a barn cleared out ASAP.

  3. Anon - Snocone has taught me not to discount any breed of dog. Fr Fru poodles were originally hunting dogs after all. I would have loved to watch your poodles tear it up.
    Michelle L- I have a day dream of becoming the crazy old lady with the ratters -- and getting paid to clean up barns, old houses etc.

  4. Alas, my pampered Pomeranians would only bark at rats I'm afraid, although they do love to chase the occasional errant chickens that make it into their enclosure. However, my dear friend and neighbor has a border collie mix and a beagle mix that are rodent killing machines, and I call in their services on a regular basis.
    I refuse to use poison due to the risk to my own dogs and to wildlife, particularly hawks and owls.

  5. Lol. This makes me laugh.

    My parents are empty-nesters who love the frou-frou dog. And the purse pooch. Etc. But hey, it keeps them happy, and well, the new "work" for dogs is companion animal these days anyway.

    But I must admit I had a couple minutes of evil chortling when they discovered their new "chiweenie" puppy is an avid mouser. She loves to present them with her most recent kill.

    With the bird feeders my dad set out, there is no shortage of backyard mice.

    I bought them some more doggie-toothpaste. *grin*

  6. ponyfan...all those crunchy little mousie bones will keep their teeth nice and white.

  7. My husband's family used to breed mini Dachshunds. They moved into the country after a few years and the Dachsies would course around during walks and clean out the pack rat nests. Those dogs were little, but mighty.

  8. This reminded me of the squirrel story, and I just read it out loud to my guy, who laughed throughout the entire thing. Especially "PUT DOWN THE POKER!"

  9. Love the ratter team. One of the reasons my sister got a Fox Terrier was that where she lived - a small forest covered island with (like the rest of NZ) no natural predators for rats other than the odd feral cat - had a serious rat problem.
    Her Foxy was awesome - they had a sheet of dry wall that they would lift and let him into the wall space and he'd come out and drop the rats at her feet. He's now 15 years old mostly deaf and mostly blind, but has earned his lazy retirement!