Why dogs love rats & how we hate them

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Oct 5, 2014 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

Our cities can follow the example set by dog owners in New York City who, on certain nights of the week, sometimes on weekends, bring their pets to downtown Manhattan for an evening running around with, or chasing rats.

The dogs do not only have fun, their owners claim. They also get to exercise their canine desire to prowl, let loose, and engage in their basic instinctual drive. A New York Times story in December 2013 says that the city doesn’t mind such a nocturnal activity by the dogs, probably because these four-legged hunters in the concrete jungle help lessen the rat population in Manhattan.

One dog owner who regularly brings his pet to where garbage abounds likens the exercise to a country fox hunt. The game excites the dogs immensely, so that they look forward to such hunting expeditions every week.

The interviewed dog owner is part of a group that has been meeting certain nights in downtown Manhattan for 15 years. Some of them come from as far as New Jersey while others are regular pet owners from the city.

What if, just what if, the same practice is applied in a rat-rich cluster of cities as Metro Manila?

There are no available statistics on how large the rat population could be in the metropolis, but the threat of being downed by leptospirosis, a disease borne by rats, is always a distinct possibility. Cases of leptospirosis are reported each time calamity strikes, such as during floods.

In Olongapo City, an epidemic caused by a leptospirosis outbreak erupted in 2013 that killed 11 persons and infected at least 500.

Blamed was rat infestation in a village dumpsite where the rats were said to be almost as large as cats, if also more fierce. A resident said that because of the huge number of rats in the dumpsite, cats shied away from them in fear. And so did humans.

Just recently, the local government of Olongapo announced that it was offering residents 10 pesos as payment for every live rat caught in the city in an effort to curb the growing problem. Reminds me of an episode in Nick Joaquin’s Portrait of the Artist as Filipino wherein the character Paula innocently believes City Hall had a job for her as a catcher of rats, one of a series of weaknesses she flaunts in the story.

Olongapo’s bout with leptospirosis is by far the most serious recorded in the Philippines. What exactly happens when the leptospirosis virus attacks the human body?

Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino (right) holds two rats during the start of Olongapo’s campaign against leptospirosis.  (Jonas Reyes)

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can infect humans through direct contact with the urine of infected animals or with a urine-contaminated environment. The bacteria enters the body through cuts or abrasions on the skin.

Rat infestation isn’t a problem only in big cities. Farmers in the countryside, such as those in the Bicol region, grapple with the same problem with higher economic risks.

In 2013, rats destroyed millions’ worth of agricultural crops in Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Masbate, and Albay. They attacked anything from coconuts to rootcrops, rice and corn to vegetables, leaving millions of pesos in losses in their wake.

If you can’t lick them, those grubby rats, eat them. This might as well be the line of thinking among the people of Pampanga and nearby provinces where rat infestation poses a threat to agriculture and health.

In Pampanga, a rat variety known as dagang bukid or farm rat is considered edible. Those who swear by its taste compare the experience to eating chicken.

Of course, that’s also what they say when people eat crocodile meat, for example, in Palawan. It seems most everything initially unacceptable to the human palate that’s neither chicken nor beef is said to taste like chicken when cooked.

Natives of Magalang, Pampanga, where the rat population is less threatening due to human consumption, claim that farm rats are safe to eat as they consume only rice and nothing more. Adobo is a popular preparation for farm rats. It is also fun, they say, to eat either fried or grilled dagang bukid. Please do not mistake it for my favourite fish,  dalagang bukid.


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