NATICK, Mass. - Susan lane says her service dog -- Stella -- was attacked by a rat in the backyard of their Natick home on Sunday.
"The rat bit her in the nose, the cheek and the chin," she explained.
Lane is a quadruple amputee and relies on Stella.
"She can pick up a cellphone, she can pick up a drink without spilling it if I drop a cup. She will pick up a towel if I drop it in the shower," Lane said.
But after the rat bite, Stella was rushed to the vet.
"She had to be sedated, put under anesthesia," Lane said.
Natick health officials say rats are not just a big city problem anymore.
"It has spread out this way especially the past couple of years," Natick Health Director Jim White said. "All the communities in this area have noticed a big uptick in the rodent population."
Natick had 42 complaints last year and the town launched a public awareness campaign more than a year ago -- and urge homeowners to reach out when they notice rat activity.
"We do intend to canvas that neighborhood as we have others to see if there is a problem," White said.
Several professional rat exterminators told Boston 25 News they have seen a substantial increase in rat complaints and calls. Local hardware stores say the consistently see people buying rat control products.
"We call this the aisle of death," Jeff Underwood explained as he walked into the pest control aisle at his store, Robinson's Hardware. "And it's just constant. We have to fill this section every week."
Health officials believe the large number of construction projects displaces rats. They also say they believe the overall shorter winters are playing a role.
"So it is not upsetting their reproduction cycle, so they are giving birth later into the fall and earlier into the spring so the population is growing that way too," White said.
The City of Natick does a lot of public education on how to prevent rat issues on your property.
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