【聯合報／By COREY KILGANNON／陳世欽譯】
Dogs Follow Instincts on Hunt for Rats
It was well after nightfall. The pack of dogs was split into two groups and led to opposite ends of a desolate alley in downtown Manhattan. A man collecting recyclable cans from the trash slipped out just before the owners unleashed the dogs.
The rat hunt was on.
The dogs raced toward a pile of trash bags in the alley, with the smaller dogs combing through the bags and chasing rats out toward the larger dogs.
Ernie, a 3-year-old hunt terrier, snapped up a fleeing rat in his jaws and gave him a hard shake. The rat quickly went limp. Ernie’s owner rejoiced over the kill — it was Ernie’s first, after just a few outings of hunting vermin.
This was another occasional outing for a group of dog owners who take their pets to downtown Manhattan to kill rats.
The hunt is conducted something like a country fox hunt, but in an urban setting. Members say it allows their dogs — mostly breeds known for chasing small game and vermin — to indulge in basic instinctual drives by killing a dozen or two dozen rats each time they are let loose.
“We don’t make a huge difference in the rat population, but the dogs have a lot of fun,” said Richard Reynolds, a main organizer of the group . The group has been meeting for 15 years, mostly in downtown Manhattan in areas where trash is abundant.
“We love garbage — if there’s food around, there are rats,” said Mr. Reynolds, a dog breeder from nearby in New Jersey.
Just before the recent alley hunt, the group had met in City Hall Park, with the energetic little dogs straining their leashes toward the bushes and assuming pointing positions. A local resident who was walking his 12-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Chloe, stopped to chat, and was incredulous when told what the group was doing: using their dogs to find, catch and kill rats in the streets.
“You guys can do that?” asked Chloe’s owner, Andrew Luan, 42. “I mean, you won’t get tickets, the city’s O.K. with that?”
In fact, it would appear that the rat hunters are not violating any laws or health codes.
“The city loves us,” claimed Mr. Reynolds, casting his group as a free extermination force.
Ernie’s owner, who said she was a veterinarian from Manhattan on her third hunt, asked that her name not be published because “it wouldn’t go over well with some of my clients.”
“Once he got a taste for it, he has not stopped looking” for rats, she said, adding the hunt “provides mental stimulation” for the dogs.
Hunting rats does pose risks, since they are known to carry diseases, including leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that often affects animals .
Mr. Reynolds said there had been a few lacerations to the dogs from rat bites and other mishaps, but nothing serious. Still, he said, he carries “a traveling field hospital” in his truck, just in case.
The group sometimes gets tips from homeless people or police officers, Mr. Reynolds said.
Still, not everyone supports the rat hunts. Brian Shapiro, the New York State director for the Humane Society of the United States, said there were numerous cases of dogs biting rats and ingesting poison consumed by the rat.
Mr. Reynolds argued that no harm had ever come to any of the dogs, adding that rat poison causes a slow, painful death, compared with a quick death in a dog’s jaws.
Jimmy Hoffman, 37, a veterinary technician who owns a 3-year-old Patterdale terrier named Mighty, said he was not insensitive to the plight of the rat; in fact, he treats pet rats in his work in Queens.
“I got no prejudices, but hunting is hunting,” he said.
Article source: http://mag.udn.com/mag/edu/storypage.jsp?f_ART_ID=490644