We've spent so much time this week focusing on viral rat hoaxes and the mysterious puppet masters who might be behind them, we've lost sight of the millions of real rats who keep pied-à-terres all around Upper West Side dumpsters and other parts of the city. R.A.T.S. (The Ryders Alley Trencher-Fed Society), a group of locals who have been using their dogs (mostly terriers) to hunt rats late at night around the city, definitely haven't.
The organization, who have been hunting rats since 1995, was founded by Richard Reynolds. There's been no shortage of coverage on the group and its bloody activities in recent years (we last checked in with them in 2013). They had their "first hunt of the year" this past week, and it was a big success: "Even bagged a nest of 'Rodent McNuggets' :-0 (Sorry McDonalds)," they wrote on Facebook.
The group has caught the attention of reality star Mike Rowe, who you might know from his CNN show (Somebody's Gotta Do It), the Discovery Channel series Dirty Jobs, those Ford Motor Company ads, or perhaps even from his lookalikes' crimes. He went out with the group in December, and collaborated with The Blaze for a report from the front lines of the rat wars, calling it something "unlike anything I’ve ever seen." You can see the video, which includes a lot of graphic footage of dogs taking care of rats, below.
"Mild manner little terriers, these loyal pets are transformed into the hound of the Baskervilles. Together they go into the city and they start killing rats," said Rowe. "[W]hile the city is doing all sorts of interesting things in the category of vermin abatement, the frontline battle is going on after dark with terriers completely waging a holy war on the unseen scourge of New York City."
Reynolds, still the head of the group, also responded to complaints from PETA about the group's nocturnal activities: "PETA’s was of the opinion this was nothing more than a blood sport masquerading as rodent control. It kind of defeated their purpose when I agreed with them," he said."“We are kind of universally well-liked," he added. "We get standing ovations.”
In a statement to The Blaze, PETA called the hunts illegal: "Setting dogs upon rats is depraved, sadistic, and illegal,” the statement said. “It constitutes an explicit violation of New York’s anti-cruelty laws, violators of which face up to 1 year in jail. It would also directly violate animal fighting laws, violators of which face up to four years in prison and $25,000 in fines. We encourage anyone who witnesses any such activity to report it to the ASPCA immediately."
Reynolds argued in response that dog hunts are actually humane because "their canines are trained to kill the rats instantly."
Last year, Mayor de Blasio pledged $3 million to make permanent an e-rat-ication program deployed in seven rat-infested neighborhoods, including East Harlem, the Upper West Side and the East Village.