‘88 rats in three hours’: Rodent killing dogs make mark in Boston area

BOSTON — Could rodent-killing dogs help make a dent in Boston’s flourishing rat population?

Unique Pest Management, based in the Washington DC area, believes its pest-exterminating canines would be effective.

The company’s specially-trained Patterdale terriers dogs sniff out rats and eliminate them.

Founders Scott and Angie Mullaney visit the Boston area monthly with their dogs to serve clients and educate people about the rodent removal technique.

“Our current record is 88 rats in three hours,” said Scott Mullaney. “We use them for detection. We use them for reduction. We also use the dogs to harass the rats off a property.”

The strategy has been used in Cambridge and other cities and towns across the northeast.

It’s part of a movement to support tactics that rely less heavily on traditional poison.

The dogs have not been used officially in the city of Boston, but city leaders have been made aware of it.

“Our services would be great for the Boston area,” said Mullaney. “They grab the rats by the back of the neck, and they give them a couple of shakes. It severs their spinal cord, and they die instantly, and they spit them out and go onto the next one.”

The dogs dig rats out of burrows and can also find out where the rats are entering people’s properties.

They can scour through drop ceilings, crawl spaces, and wall voids to get rid of the pests and mark their territory to prevent the rodents from coming back.

“The dogs, just like humans, have skillsets they excel at,” explained Mullaney. “We try to put enough pressure on the rats where they don’t feel healthy to reproduce.”

The terriers, each weighing under 20 pounds, have been deployed on multiple occasions in Cambridge in places where it’s tough to eliminate sources of trash.

That includes the city’s public works building.

“The animal behavior side of it is very interesting to me, and it’s just really cool to kill rats,” said David Power, Project Coordinator for Environmental Health with Cambridge ISD. “It’s another tool.”

Power told Boston 25 News that the city has been making strides in targeting the rodent population with methods that don’t use rodenticide as a first line of attack.

Cambridge Inspectional Services has been focused on sanitation, finding properties with overgrown shrubs, containerizing trash, and curbside composting.

60 smart boxes that have been set up across the city are zapping rats by the thousands.

“Once the box senses that the animal is there, it will elevate them so they can’t escape. It will electrocute them, and then it dumps them into a holding bin,” added Power.

Boston city leaders are still considering an array of new methods to address the city’s ongoing rat problem.

The Boston City Council is expected to vote by the end of the month on a proposal from Councilor Ed Flynn to launch a dedicated office of pest control and appoint an official “rat czar”.

It follows a model from New York City.

A New York City spokesperson told Boston 25 News that, during the summer of 2023, 311 calls on rat activity from the prior two months decreased by 20 percent.

That’s compared to the same time the year before.

“The only thing I wouldn’t agree with is that we need a standalone department,” said John Ulrich, assistant commissioner of the environmental division of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department. “We currently have a rodent control division. We have 14 inspectors that are licensed to do pest control.”

Ulrich said the inspectors are still learning about the rat-killing dogs from the DC area.

“We have had some initial conversations,” he said. “We will have further conversations. It is very interesting.”

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