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LETTERS -- Fighting Rats, Saving Wildlife Requires Striking a Balance

July 26, 2019

Dear Editor

The scare tactics cited by the Pest Control Operators of California (PCOP), warning of a widespread outbreak of Typhus if Bill AB1788 is ratified needs to be dissected ("Santa Monica Lawmaker's Rat Poison Bill Approaches Final Vote Amid Urban Rat Infestations," July 24, 2019).

AB 1788 is written to protect our wildlife treasures from unintended consequences due to injestion of Second Generations Anticoagulant Rodenticide (SGAR’s).

Indeed, there can be no disputing the fact that SGARs were responsible for the deaths of a multitude of animals, including mountain lion P47 in the Santa Monica Mountains, which was found to have high levels of 6 SGAR’s in its digestive system.

Preventing this is the purpose of Assemblymember Richard Bloom's bill.

Under AB 1788, SGARs are not totally excluded from use. There are exemptions which allow use during a “health crises” such as that cited by the PCOP.

These anticoagulants could and will still be used, even if the bill is passed. So, what is the problem?

I believe the real problem is the failure of our elected officials to maintain a safe and secure healthy environment. The filth and disgusting piles of excrement on the streets of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego are a blot in these cities.

Two years ago the same situation existed with a scare of Hepatitis. Streets were cleaned with bleach, but to no avail.

Officials did not provide proper sanitation, housing or controls to prevent a reoccurrence, this time with Typhus. Clearly, elected officials failed to protect public health.

A second problem is more basic. Are these SGAR’s really effective. A cursory amount of research reveals that they were developed in the 1970’s, almost 50 years ago!

They came about because the first generation (FGAR) developed in the 1940s was no longer effective. It appeared that rats developed an immunity to FGAR’s after 30 years.

Could the same be said for SGAR’s after 50 years? Not only is the answer a resounding YES, but it has been proven in a scientific study by Dr. Colin Prescott of Reading University in Oxford England, which cites the development of Super Rats resistant to SGAR’s.

Unless the physiology of a rat in England differs from that of a rat in the United States, we could be experiencing the same outcome.

So we have an industry advocating for a poison that may not be as effective against rats as stated, but which we know kills our wildlife treasures at a rate which threatens their extinction.

What the industry fails to mention is that rats are prolific breeders, so why not try using some form of birth control? A recently approved product, ContraPest, acts as a birth control, albeit not a sterilant.

If we can control their reproductive cycle, less toxic measures may be sufficient.

In short, there is an alternative to SGAR’s. But the industry prefers to recommend toxic measures rather than a safer newly developed non-toxic technique.

We must pass AB 1788 to save our wildlife, and we must seek out safer non toxic methods to control an ever increasing potential of rat infestation.

Anthony C. Salvo

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