Anyone who lives in New York knows that the city has a serious rat problem. As of December 2021, two million rats call the Big Apple home, thriving on the streets, in sewers, in abandoned buildings, in the subways, and more. But the problem has become much worse because rats are now responsible for killing dogs.
New York City’s health department is now investigating the death of four dogs after their owners took them to a popular park in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. Problems were reported after pet owners took their dogs to a run at different times at McCarren Park. Soon after returning home, they all presented with the same symptoms before dying. Distraught owners are pinning the problem on the rodent-infested park, saying that rats are essentially killing their dogs.
Speaking to abc7, City Councilman Lincoln Restler said the dogs had symptoms associated with Leptospirosis – an infectious bacterial disease that can also affect humans. A lot of animals carry the bacteria that results in Leptospirosis. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. In dogs, symptoms include fever, chills, vomiting, muscle aches, or diarrhea. “Rats may urinate in a puddle and dogs lick from the puddle and they can get sick. The good news is that it is treatable, both for dogs and for humans,” Restler told the publication. Unfortunately in some cases, the rat-born illness can result in killing dogs.
Councilman Restler stopped short of declaring a Leptospirosis outbreak, as did the city’s Department of Health. But he has spent time on social media sharing helpful information about symptoms, treatment, and vaccinations to prevent the rat killings from spreading. “I’m incredibly concerned,” Restler said. “We need to immediately address the rat infestation and underlying conditions in this area to make sure dogs and this whole community is safe,” he said via NY Daily News.
The New York City health department released a statement addressing the potential public health crisis caused by rats killing dogs. They are currently working with NYC Parks to inspect for rodent activity. Dog owners who are concerned about their pets should consult their vets about vaccinations and seek care early if their dog is ill. “We urge veterinarians who receive positive results of Leptospirosis to report it to the Health Department as required by the NYC Health Code,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Councilman Restler has been calling for a community outreach effort to help clean up the park. In a post on social media, he said NYC Parks is doing emergency repairs to improve dog-run drainage and install rodent-resistant garbage cans. While these are interim solutions, safe pest extermination is also taking place in conjunction with Healthy New York. The dog run will also be closed for repairs.
Local veterinarians also say that pet owners can prevent Leptospirosis infections by keeping their homes free of rodents and preventing their dogs from having direct contact with rats and small mammals when outdoors. They urged owners not to let their pets drink from puddles or other sources of water that could be contaminated with rodent urine – which leads to rats killing dogs.