How to get rid of NYC rats without brutality? Birth control is one idea

Lawmakers in New York are proposing rules to humanely reduce the population of rats and other rodents, with birth control and a ban on glue traps seen as alternatives to poison or a slow, brutal death.

Politicians have long come up with creative ways to combat the rodents, but some lawmakers are now proposing city and state measures to do more.

In New York City, the idea of ​​distributing rat contraceptives gained new attention in the city council Thursday after the death of an escaped zoo owl known as Flaco, which was found dead with rat poison in its system.

City Councilman Shaun Abreu proposed a city ordinance Thursday that would establish a pilot program to control the millions of rats lurking in subway stations and empty lots through the use of birth control instead of deadly chemicals. Abreu, chairman of the Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Commission, said the contraceptives are also more ethical and humane than other methods.

The contraceptive, called ContraPest, comes in salty, fatty pellets that are spread as bait in rat-infested areas. It works by targeting ovarian function in female rats and interfering with sperm production in males, The New York Times reported.

Exterminators in New York currently kill rats using snap-and-glue traps, toxins that cause them to bleed internally, and carbon monoxide gas that can suffocate them in burrows. Some hobbyists have even trained their dogs to hunt them.

Rashad Edwards, a film and television actor who co-founded pest control company Scurry Inc. with his wife. in New York City, said carbon monoxide is the best method he has found for dealing with rodents.

He tries to use the most humane method possible, and carbon monoxide slowly euthanizes the rats, putting them to sleep and killing them. Edwards avoids using rat poison whenever possible because it is dangerous and torturous to the rodents, he said.

Some lawmakers in Albany are considering a statewide ban on glue boards under a bill moving through the Legislature. The traps, usually made of a piece of cardboard or plastic coated with a sticky material, can also ensnare small animals that land on the surface.

Edwards opposes a ban on sticky traps because he uses them against other pests, such as ants, to reduce overall pesticide use. When ants enter a house, he uses sticky traps to find out where they visit most often. It helps him limit the areas where pesticides are used “so you don’t end up spraying the whole place.”

“This is not a problem we can kill ourselves off,” said Jakob Shaw, a special project manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It is time to embrace these more common sense and humane methods.”

Two California cities have implemented glue trap bans in recent years. At the federal level, a bill currently in committee would ban the traps nationwide.

“It puts an end to a truly inhumane practice of managing rat populations,” said Jabari Brisport, the New York state senator who represents part of Brooklyn and sponsored the bill proposing the new guidelines. “There are more effective and humane ways to deal with rats.”

Every generation of New Yorkers has struggled to control rat populations. Mayor Eric Adams last year hired a “rat sar” tasked with getting rid of the detested rodents. Last month, New York City reduced the amount of food served to rats by requiring all businesses to place waste in boxes.

While there is no end in sight to the war on rats, exterminator Edwards said we can learn a lot from their resilience. The rodents, he said, can never be eradicated, only managed.

“They are very smart and very wise,” he said. “It’s very inspiring, but just – not in my house.”