Rats Don't Like Dog Poop


Give a rat a choice, and that rat will NEVER eat dog poop. That’s the fact.

Ald. Rameriz-Rosa and the Mayor want to make it a crime ($50 to $500 fine) for people who do not pick up in their own backyards. I phoned Alderman Rameriz-Rosa’s office and was told “You’d know when to fine people – that’s when there’s too much, and when it smells.”

If only we could train our dogs to do this

If only we could train our dogs to do this


How do you write such a vague ordinance? Who’s sense of smell is the determining factor here? And how many piles are too many? Five or 25? Or should it be based on the amount of poop per square foot?

Chicago is often a confused City. Or perhaps Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Carlos Rameriz-Rosa (35th ward) are smarter than most think, wanting to redirect from real (and more expensive) solutions to the rat problem for political expediency. Who knows?

Now, don’t get me wrong. Picking up after dogs is a serious issue, and potentially not picking up may be a public health risk.

Most dog owners are responsible - but it has nothing to do with rats

Most dog owners are responsible – but it has nothing to do with rats

Veterinary parisitologist Dr. Dwight Bowman of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine rattled off a long list of potential problems in people, including roundworm, salmonella and camplobacteriosis. Also, Giardia, roundworm and whipworm can be spread to other dogs.

That’s not to mention the smell and mess it is when you unknowingly step in it, as most people have.

For decades it been an ordinance for people to pick up in public places, a law that’s hardly ever enforced. Public plans are a far more significant issue regarding public health, and City aesthetics compared to private backyards .

I suggest when the ordinance to pick up in public places is enforced, we can look a private property.

Also, the proposed ordinance reads, “Feces from pets deposited upon any private property must be collected and removed daily by the property’s owner or agent.”

This wording may discourage landlords and property owners, even condo associations, from allowing dogs. The ordinance has them holding the bag, sort of speak – the property owners, managers or condo associations potentially responsible for any fines.

And all effort, potentially reducing availability of places to live with dogs, this to supposedly fight a rat problem.

Now, this does contribute to the rat problem

Now, this does contribute to the rat problem

Oh, no doubt – there is a rat problem. Chicago was named the “rattiest” city in 2013 and 2014 by Orkin pest-control firm.

However, this is no way to solve it or even impact rat numbers in the slightest. Alderman. Rosa-Rameriz and the Mayor insist they are lowering rat numbers when a handful of problem individuals do a better job of picking up dog poop in their own yards. And the city Department of Health is providing back up. The problem is that they’re all wrong!

Steve Sullivan, senior curator of Urban Ecology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, is a real expert. He says he’s never seen a peer reviewed study to confirm that rats relish dog feces.


I searched for what urban (Norway) rats eat, and indeed studies have been done. Dog feces is not listed. Or more anecdotally, search Google images – you won’t find a single picture of a city rat eating dog poop, likely because no such image exists.

A rat feast waiting to happen

A rat feast waiting to happen

By far, at the top of the rat dining list is city trash. That’s true for city rats around the world. Metal closing garbage cans prevent rats from getting in. The plastic lids are now rat-proof (even heavy plastic), as rats chew through. And many city trash cans have no lids anyway.

Moreover, some people don’t even bother throwing trash in cans. Why not fine them? There is an ordinance against littering.

That is another ordinance almost never enforced. Sometimes people toss their recycles and even food trash in plastic bags next to overflowing cans – obviously very easy for rats to break into.

More metal trash cans, and less random food sources in the alley and elsewhere would actually make a difference, and dent the rat numbers.

I have heard that the Cats at Work Program (run by a private shelter) may be diminished – maybe the City’s Animal Care & Control or Friends of Animal Care & Control can pick it up; there’s certainly a need. Cats already trapped neutered returned are merely relocated to where rats are swarming. Cats come in, rats go home.

Here are some additional tips which may actually reduce numbers:

  • Encourage people to hose down berries fallen from trees (rats love to devour these).

    Deal with rat holes

    Deal with rat holes

  • Fine people for feeding rats. True, few people partake in this wacky endeavor – but some do.
  • Filling rat holes (so they can not be dug out again), and removing firewood prevents takes away their homes.
  • Rats love eating bird seed – some bird-feeders are ‘rat unfriendly.’

Using poison bait does work to some extent…but there’s always a fear of dogs or children getting into it. Moreover, colony rats sniff what killed their dead comrade and often quickly learn to stay away.

I am all for solving the city rat problem, and all for responsible dog ownership – but these are two all together different issues.