CHICAGO — The city's new scheme to reduce its booming rat population with suffocating dry ice vapors will fail miserably, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which says the rodents instead "deserve our protection."
"They exhibit a sense of humor — they even giggle when they're tickled — show empathy for others, and have been known to risk their own lives to save other rats, especially when those in peril are babies," she said. "There are always other solutions — the city should be looking into effective nonlethal methods, instead of endlessly killing rats who are simply trying to eke out an existence."
What's more, Bell said, trying to kill the rats with dry ice won't work — as is the case with any other "lethal initiative."
"Lethal initiatives are ineffective and actually backfire," she said. "They cause spikes in the food supply and accelerate breeding among survivors and inevitable newcomers. So what residents end up with is a vicious killing cycle that accomplishes nothing."
At the end of August, crews with the city's Streets and Sanitation Department started putting dry ice — frozen carbon dioxide — into rat burrows and sealing up the holes with dirt and newspaper.
The new method, which has been tested in other major cities, is considered to be more environmentally friendly, cost effective and successful than other rat-abatement tactics like baiting and poison, city officials said.
As the dry ice warms into a gas, it suffocates the trapped rats, leaving them to decompose in the holes — away from people.
But Bell isn't convinced the new method will cut the city's rat population.
"Wild animals of any sort are attracted to places where there's a reliable food supply, and until that changes, the city will always find itself two steps back if it depends on killing," she said.
Bell said effective rodent control entails making areas less attractive to them by disposing of trash, keeping garbage receptacles secured and sealing entry points that they frequent. She also said placing ammonia-soaked rags in and around areas they frequent, clearing brush and other materials to eliminate hiding places and installing scare devices — readily available online and at garden centers, she said — will work to reduce the population naturally.
The new rat abatement method comes at a time when the city's rat population is dramatically increasing, city leaders said. Complaints are up nearly 50 percent this year. The city is on pace to get 50,000 complaints this year. By comparison, there were 36,425 complaints to 311 last year.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week said the Department of Streets and Sanitation has added 10 crews to its bureau of rodent control. There are now 28 crews fighting rat populations across the city.
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