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St. Clair Shores

November 23, 2012

St. Clair Shores proposes targeting problem areas for rat abatement

No vote yet taken on plan

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

On the fifth day of November, Sherry Stidwill’s 85-pound Bernese mountain dog, Benny, began to vomit and run a fever.

Two days later, he was gone.

Stidwill said she had taken Benny to the vet for his symptoms, where he was given intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

“That evening, my vet called me back … telling me my dog was going into renal failure,” she said. “His kidneys failed him, his liver failed him; he went into congestive heart failure and died.”

The entire ordeal happened over the course of just two days. Stidwill said she and her family could not even make it back to the vet in time to see their dog one more time before he died.

The diagnosis? Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that is spread through the urine of an infected animal — in this case, rats. It can also infect humans, and it enters the body of a person or animal through a cut or mucous membrane.

Stidwill, who lives near 13 Mile Road and Harper Avenue, said she had called and asked the city to come and evaluate her home for possible rat abatement  but had not heard back yet. And now, she said, it’s already too late for Benny.

Nelson Lacross told City Council a similar story, when it met Nov. 19 to discuss the city’s rat problem. He said he lost his dog to leptospirosis in September and found out his neighbor’s dog also died from the disease.

It’s stories like these that have City Council investigating how to better tackle the rodent problem in the city.

Acting City Manager Mike Smith said they ran a pilot program on two streets near Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home recently,  in which a letter was sent to all 110 homes stating that the city would be inspecting every yard, unless the resident objected, and would bait for rodents where necessary. Only three homesowners objected to the inspection, and the city ended up being able to bait for rodents at 51 different homes in the area.

“There was no negative responses back with (regard) to our being too aggressive on this issue,” Smith said. And now in the area, he said, “we don’t have nearly the problem with rats. We’re down to about 15 percent of those boxes (that) still need to be re-baited.”

He said this was an aggressive approach that would cost more than $2 million to replicate throughout the city. Instead, he suggested to council members that they begin with five target areas in the city, where problems have been reported. Then, he said, they would spread outward from those areas to try to contain the problem.

He said code enforcement officers entering the yards would only be looking for violations that could lead to rodent infestations, such as wood piled on the ground, garbage in the yard or standing water.

If violations are found, Smith said, a ticket would not be left, just a “notice of violation.” Code enforcement officers would then follow up in a week or so to check if the problems have been eradicated.

“If it’s still there,” he said, “we’re going to leave you another notice of violation, and then you will start down the road of violation.”

Smith said he would give another presentation to City Council in December, with representatives from Landscape Services — contracted by the city contracts for code enforcement — present to explain what kinds of bait is used and why that is the best for the problem. City Council would likely vote on beginning a program at that time.

Stidwill said she believes the rat problem is a crisis in the city.

“How many other pets have to be infected before something is done?” she said. “I have another dog, he is six years old, and now he is going through depression because he lost his buddy.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.