Santa Monica
Traditional Reporting for A Digital Age

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
2802 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Home Special Reports Archive Links The City Commerce About Contacts Editor Send PR

Santa Monica Lawmaker's Rat Poison Bill Approaches Final Vote Amid Urban Rat Infestations

Bob Kronovetrealty
We Love Property Management Headaches!

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

July 24, 2019 -- The fate of a Santa Monica lawmaker's bill to protect wildlife from lethal rat poisons will be decided as major California cities combat a rampant rise in rat populations that threatens to become a public health crisis.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s bill -- which would ban certain rat poisons that threaten wildlife near urban centers -- cleared the California Assembly in May with a bipartisan 50-16 vote.

Assembly Bill 1788 has the unanimous and vociferous support of environmentalists, who view it as a referendum on protecting mountain lions and other dwindling wildlife.

But recent rat infestations cropping up in major California cities have raised concerns that Bloom's bill would make it harder to avert an outbreak of typhus that could become a full-blown epidemic.

In a recent report in the Sacramento Bee, University of California rodent expert Niamh Quinn notes that the bill comes at a time when typhus cases are increasing at an alarming rate in Los Angeles County.

“If you’re a mountain lion biologist and one of your precious mountain lions dies in the Santa Monica Mountains, that’s a huge deal," Quinn told the paper.

"But if you’re me, and you’re in a classroom, and a maggoty rat, or multiple maggoty rats, are falling down out of the ceiling, that’s also a huge deal.”

Quinn said that “there has to a be a middle ground somewhere, and a middle ground is not a complete ban on the use of anticoagulant rodenticides, but it more than likely will be.”

Critics of Bloom's bill, which is opposed by trade groups for pest control companies, are also stepping up their opposition.

The advocacy group Reform California recently released a study warning that the state is facing an explosion in its rat population, which would cause a spike in typhus and other dangerous diseases.

Experts attribute the rat infestations plaguing major California cities on a dramatic rise in the homeless population whose members often live in unsanitary conditions.

In addition, a stormy winter following years of drought has driven rats into cities, experts said.

The health concerns are not likely to deter environmentalists alarmed by a mountain lion population being slowly decimated by rat poisons that work their way up the food chain.

The death in March of a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains served as a rallying cry for Bloom's bill ("Mountain Lion's Death 'Rousing' Call for Rat Poison Ban, Bloom Says," May 2, 2019).

The three-year-old mountain lion died after being exposed to six different anticoagulant compounds found in rat poison, National Park Service officials said.

Anticoagulant rodenticide compounds have been found in 21 of the 22 local mountain lions that have been tested, including in a three-month-old kitten, Park Service officials said.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife found that of 68 dead mountain lions tested in 2015 and 2016, 63 had second-generation poisons -- the poisons banned in Bloom's bill -- in their systems.

Rodenticides aren't only killing mountain lions, state officials said.

The poison has been found in 27 species of birds and 17 species of mammals, including some endangered species such as the Northern Spotted Owl, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA).

AB 1788 would expand Bloom's 2014 ban on the use of rodenticides in wildlife areas and parks and strengthen enforcement efforts by the state to limit their use to licensed pest control applicators.

It is one of five bills banning rat poisons Bloom has introduced in the past five years. The other three have failed to pass.

If approved, AB 1788 will make California the first state to ban certain rat poisons that pose a "rampant threat" to pets and wildlife, Bloom said.

In May, the LA Times editorial board wrote that the bill "should be passed now and then signed into law."

The May 13 editorial noted that Bloom's bill "would allow the use of the prohibited second-generation pesticides in public health emergencies."

In a statement issued to the Sacramento Bee, Bloom's office said that "even in this unusual situation, the main solution is to provide better sanitation.”

The legislative analysis for AB 1788 says that the most important steps in "eliminating and preventing rodent infestations are keeping living spaces clean; preventing rodent access; and, eliminating potential nesting areas.”

On June 24, Bloom's bill was amended to provide that its provisions "do not preempt or supersede special local need or emergency exemptions for the use of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act."

But rodent experts say AB 1788 will only make fighting rodents more difficult, especially in poor neighborhoods and homeless encampments.

“We believe this is a public health issue,” Chris Reardon, a former official with the Department of Pesticide Regulation, told the Sacramento Bee.

“And so you look at rodent control and the tools we currently have in California they’re relatively limited anyway,“ said Reardon, an advocate for the Pest Control Operators of California.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the legislation on August 8.

Back to Lookout News copyrightCopyright 1999-2019 All Rights Reserved. EMAIL Disclosures