One evening, my partner and I left our two dog buddies home alone while we went out for a quick dinner. We returned to find two smiling, wagging dogs at the door…and one very dead mouse in the middle of the living room rug.
Rat hunting in New York City
Through Rover, I dog sit for N, a darling black lab on the Upper East Side. N is a lovebug through and through—she adores every person and animal she meets. When my partner and I sit for her, we take our dog Lucy along, and she and N have a blast chasing, wrestling, and playing tug-of-war.
On the night in question, there was no question about the identity of the murderer. Spend 30 seconds with N and you know she’s more likely to invite a mouse to tea than to kill it. Nope, the perp was definitely our girl.
Step one: hide the body.
Step two: regale everyone we know with our horrifying story.
Fast forward a few months to our friend Tami texting us at 5am.
Tami has a boxer/pit bull mix named Tulip, who, sadly, is a lot like N.
After calming down, cleaning up, and calling an exterminator, Tami asked us if she could borrow Lucy for a few nights to dispatch anything that evaded the traps. Strangely proud of our little mercenary, we said yes at first, but then backtracked, wondering how safe and/or humane it was to put Lucy on the hunt. To the Google!
Is rat hunting safe for dogs?
It was no great surprise that rodents are not the best meals for dogs. Mice and rats can carry parasites, toxoplasmosis, and viruses, including rabies. Perhaps an even greater risk of eating rodents found indoors is secondary poisoning, which occurs when a dog eats a mouse or rat that has eaten poisoned bait. Risky as it is, there are still plenty of advocates for allowing dogs to hunt mice and rats. Meet Jordan Reed and his pack of rat terriers, the “Mongrol Hoard” [sic]. Local farmers hire Reed and his dogs to hunt rats in barns, mills, chicken coops, and other infested areas. A typical hunt lasts three to four hours. Reed’s dogs can kill over 100 rats in that time.
Reed and others who use dogs for vermin eradication claim that death-by-dog is the most humane way to get rid of rodents. It’s a quick end, over in a sharp shake of a dog’s head. Further, they say, the task satisfies a dog’s hunting instinct.
Richard Reynolds, a New Yorker, agrees. Reynolds organizes the Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society (yes, “RATS”), a group that meets in downtown Manhattan alleys to hunt rats with their dogs. Reynolds acknowledges the possible dangers to the dogs, but says that beyond a few rat bites, there have been no incidents. Notably, one of the group’s regular members is a Manhattan veterinarian.
Tami picked up Lucy a few hours ago, under strict instruction that Lucy may chase and kill, but not eat, Tami’s unwanted guests. An additional condition was that we get sweet, useless Tulip in return.