They are respectable pets by day — upstanding AKC members, dog show winners, a therapy dog and even an actor among them.
At night, though, about once a week, they hit the grimy streets and trash-filled alleys of New York — terriers and dachshunds, along with their owners — tracking, cornering, capturing and killing rats.
You can call them superheroes, you can call them vigilantes, you can call them (as PETA has) participants in a “twisted blood sport.”
For its part, the The Ryder’s Alley Trencher-fed Society, or RATS, describes itself as a group of New York dog owners who are simply letting their dogs pursue what has been bred into them.
“Terriers have an innate sense to do this, it’s in their genes,” said Richard Reynolds, who founded the group. It has been around more than 25 years, and has its own Facebook page.
The group goes out as often as possible, sometimes invited to problem areas by citizens, sometimes responding to informal requests from city officials, The New York Post reported last week. The service is provided for free.
As the dog owners see it, they are giving their dogs a chance to fulfill what they were born to do.
“They think hunting is just fabulous,” Dr. Trudy Kawami, who started taking her wire-haired dachshunds to Prospect Park 30 years ago to sniff out rodents with the group, told
Usually, about eight dogs take part in the hunt. The dachshunds tend to go into closed areas and flush rats out of garbage bags, while the larger terriers seem more interested in the actual attack.
Reynolds told The Post that half the dogs are show champions, one is a therapy dog and another has a role in the film “Five Flights Up,” alongside Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman.
There is always a veterinary technician present, since rat bites are common.
“It’s all about keeping happy, healthy working dogs, and as long as we do that, everything is fine,” Reynolds said.
(Photos: RATS Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 27th, 2017 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alleys, animals, behavior, bites, bloodsport, breeds, city, dachshunds, dog, dogs, dogs hunting rats, instinct, kill, killing, new york city, pests, pets, rat, rat hunting, rat hunting dogs, richard reynolds, rodents, Ryder’s Alley Trencher-fed Society, streets, terriers, track, trash, urban, vermin
Here’s a handy tip to keep dogs from doing their business in those sidewalk tree wells — one that works better than bricks, better than fences, and is all but guaranteed to keep those disease-carrying beasts from tainting our otherwise pristine urban tree life:
Take cuttings from thorny plants, like rose bushes, and spread them around the tree.
It may sound like a tip from Satan’s Helpful Household Hints (not a real book, to our knowledge). But it’s actually the advice offered by a Baltimore neighborhood association bedeviled by dog poop that’s not getting picked up.
The advice came in the January newsletter of the Fells Prospect Community Association.
“… You can make it clear that you don’t want pets approaching by planting thorny plants (roses, bayberry), or covering your tree pit with pine cones or cuttings from thorny plants that are uncomfortable for dogs to walk on. A sign will also encourage some people to move their dog to the next house.”
Of course moving on to the next house isn’t really the answer — is it? — unless dog and walker keep doing so until they are outside the boundaries of Fells Prospect, a neighborhood near Fells Point and Butcher Hill. Even then, the problem isn’t over. It has just moved somewhere else.
Even if every single resident of Fells Prospect adopted a tree well, nurturing it and the tree it contained (be it a live one or a dead one), even if they filled said well with thorns, lead paint chips, discarded hypodermic needles and perhaps a few strands of barbed wire, that’s all — other than some canine and human casualties — that would be achieved.
This is a hardly a new issue. In big and densely packed cities, there are few options when it comes to dogs relieving themselves. Everything is so paved over that a tiny patch of turf or dirt surrounding a tree is the only place for dogs to go. So dogs go there. Responsible dog owners, at least, pick it up. But some dog owners, like some community association officials, are thoughtless and uncaring.
So the tired old battle wages on — escalating to levels that could involve bloodshed — when, if everyone would just pick up their dog’s feces, it could finally shut the whiners up, or at least most of them.
Setting booby traps that puncture and maim is not the answer.
It’s generally accepted that the best route is education, perhaps along with some enforcement of the law that threatens $1,000 fines for unscooped poop.
It’s generally true that a tree well that is well-maintained, with a healthy tree, and some flowers around it, will be avoided, if not by the dog, at least by their walker. Ace and I always tried to steer around those when we lived in Baltimore. Sure, we’d come across dog poop on the sidewalk from time to time — just as we’d come across rats, both dead and alive, dirty needles and used condoms, and once in my backyard, a buried handgun.
Baltimore has bigger problems than dog poop. That’s not to say unscooped dog poop shouldn’t be addressed, only that it makes sense to do so with some perspective, in a reasonable matter that doesn’t involve installing weapons of mass destruction.
Alisa Peters, owner of You Silly Dog, was one of those that expressed concern about the community association’s advice: “It’s going to be uncomfortable and/or painful for the dog,” she told the Baltimore Sun. “Why are we punishing the dog? It’s not the dog’s fault.”
Veterinarian Gregory Burbelo, owner of the Boston Street Animal Hospital, which advertises in the newsletter, told The Sun he plans to ask the association to retract its comments.
“It’s sort of trickery,” he said. “It hurts the dog but doesn’t serve as a warning to the owner to keep the dog out.” While a dog may have a fair chance avoiding a thorny bush planted in a tree well, sharp clippings spread across the ground could go unseen and lead to injuries.
Officials of the Fells Prospect Community Association declined to comment to The Sun, including Phyllis Fung, who co-founded Cut the Crap Baltimore last year to combat dog waste in the neighborhood. She’s the association’s secretary.
Making the issue even more thorny is the fact that residents don’t own the sidewalks, or the tree wells within those sidewalks, so they lack the right to install booby traps in the first place.
Worse yet, any such traps could injure not just dogs whose owners are scofflaws, but those belonging to law-abiding, poop-scooping owners as well.
“We’re ignoring the fact that we’re attempting to punish 100 percent of the animals for the issues of 10 percent of owners who are irresponsible,” dog owner and neighborhood resident John Lam told the newspaper.
“I’m hoping people will ignore [the suggestions]. There are are a lot of homeowners who think they own their tree pits and don’t realize they’re in the public right-of-way. I have a big concern that people will start putting stuff in the tree pits to hurt dogs.”
(Top photo by Gail Langellotto; graphic from Cut the Crap Baltimore)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 10th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advice, animals, baltimore, booby trap, city, clippings, community association, dog poop, dogs, feces, fells prospect, hazards, inhumane, living, newsletter, pets, pine cones, poop, scoop, sidewalks, solutions, suggestion, thorns, thorny, tip, urban
Downtown Los Angeles is enjoying a spurt in growth, and with that has come a growth in spurts.
But just where in that concrete Shangri-La-La is a dog supposed to pee?
With the revitalization of downtown, and a campaign to attract upwardly mobile types (and their dogs), more of both are relocating to the area — only to find that convenient places for dogs to urinate weren’t part of the makeover, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The latest attempt to address the problem has been to locate small — and we do mean small — patches of artificial turf in areas designated (by humans) for canine toileting needs. As you can see above, it’s hardly a dog park.
Blair Besten, executive director of the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District, said patches began being installed in August as part of a trial run. Three tree wells that no longer contained trees, in spaces away from restaurants and heavy pedestrian traffic, were used to install 4-by-4-foot patches of artificial grass.
If they’re popular and hold up to regular use, the program may be expanded, Besten told the newspaper.
By redirecting dogs to the patches, she said, the city can cut down on odors, peed-upon buildings, sidewalks and trash cans, and the residue that is tracked into offices and apartments. The patches are located at Spring and 7th, near the corner of 7th and Main, and on 6th just after Main.
“They should have put them in a long time ago,” said downtown resident Helena Gaeta, who has trained her dachshund-Chihuahua mix to go in tree wells. While downtown advertising campaigns targeted dog owners, she noted, there isn’t much greenspace available to dogs.
A survey by the Downtown Center Business Improvement District this year showed one of every three residents of the area owns a dog.
“Dogs have been the greatest thing for the downtown L.A. renaissance,” said Hal Bastian, executive vice president of the district. “It creates a community because more people are on the streets. It’s a better environment.”
But even with dog owners scooping up poop — and, of course, not all do — pee remains a problem.
Not all dogs find the patches pee-worthy. Josh Jacobson, who recently moved from downtown Long Beach, said his two Chihuahuas avoid the turf patches, possibly because they hold too many scents.
“The dogs are still trying to figure it out,” he said.
(Photo: One of the patches of artificial turf installed in downtown L.A.; by Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times )
Posted by John Woestendiek December 3rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, artificial, core, district, dog, dog owners, dog parks, dogs, downtown, grass, greenspace, growth, historic, historic downtown business improvement, los angeles, newcomers, patches, pee, pet owners, pets, renaissance, revitalization, turf, urban, urinate, walking, waste
I have heard the term “brick shithouse,” but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one — until Saturday, when I encountered something close: a toilet made of brick in a restroom made of cinderblock at a park well outside Harrisburg.
It — the term — is, at least when I’ve heard it, generally used to describe someone of sturdy frame, as in: “He (she) is built like a brick shithouse.”
Urban Dictionary offers these definitions: “…very muscled and tough; impervious, unassailable … a stand alone toilet, constructed from brick.” (Is there a rural dictionary? There should be.)
I’m not sure of the phrase’s origin, but I’d guess, when outhouses were common, most were made of flimsy wood — until someone constructed a brick one, and word spread about how sturdy it was. I’m guessing people flocked to see it, making comments like, “Now, that’s a shithouse.” Somehow, from that point, the phrase began being used to describe large and sturdy people.
Ace and I were on our way to visit some puppies for sale by an Amish breeder (story to come) when we stopped at a municipal park to stretch our legs (to use a more polite euphemism). I stepped into the bathroom to see a toilet seat perched atop what appeared to be a chimney.
I’d imagine sitting on it — a purpose I did not require — would make one feel a little like Santa Claus.
Anyway, having seen a brick shithouse, or at least something close to it, we can cross it off our list and continue our travels, staying on the lookout for hell in a handbasket, a two-dollar whore, raining cats and dogs, and lipstick on a pig.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 20th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bathroom, brick shithouse, built like a brick shithouse, dog's country, dogs, house, pennsylvania, pets, phrase, public, restroom, road trip, rural, shit, shit house, shithouse, slang, toilet, travel, travels, travels with ace, urban
On the streets of Moscow, the evolution of dog is playing out in reverse.
So contends Andrei Poyarkov, a biologist and wolf specialist who has dedicated himself to studying the city’s vast population of strays — the 30,000-plus dogs that, while learning such new urban skills as using the subways, are in reality moving back to something closer to a wolf-like state.
His efforts were recounted in an enlightening piece in yesterdays Financial Times.
Poyarkov began studying the strays in 1979, starting with those living near his apartment and the ones he encountered on his way to work. He made recordings of the sounds that the strays made, and began to study their social organization. He photographed them and mapped where each dog lived.
Poyarkov, who works at the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, says Moscow’s strays are somewhere between house pets and wolves, in the early stages of the shift from the domesticated back towards the wild. It’s a process that he believes can’t be reversed, at least not in individual dogs. The strays are resistant to domestication, and many can’t stand being confined indoors.
Most of Moscow’s strays rarely wag their tails, are wary of humans and show no signs of affection towards them. A few remain comfortable with people, but more have moved on to a second stage, where they will approach people only to get food.
A third group interact mainly with other strays and get their food from garbage bins.
The last of Poyarkov’s groups are the wild dogs. “There are dogs living in the city that are not socialized to people. They know people, but view them as dangerous. Their range is extremely broad, and they are predators. They catch mice, rats and the occasional cat. They live in the city, but as a rule near industrial complexes, or in wooded parks. They are nocturnal and walk about when there are fewer people on the streets.”
Posted by John Woestendiek January 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: andrei poyarkov, animals, behavior, city, dog, dogs, domestication, evolution, feral, moscow, pets, research, reverse, russia, stray, strays, street, study, subway, urban, wild, wolf, wolves
New York dog writer Nadia Zonis recently appeared on New York’s WNYC to tout the newest in a series of guides for walking your dog in the city.
Zonis, the New York editor for Urbanhound.com, is the author of “City Walks With Dogs, New York,” which includes 50 flash cards, each depicting a different route, and the pet-friendly attractions you’ll encounter along the way.
Some of the walks included are SoHo and the West Village, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Roosevelt Island and Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue. You can order it from Amazon here.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 18th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: brooklyn bridge, central park, city, dog, dog walking, dogs, maps, nadia zonis, new york, new york city, routes, soho, urban, walking, walks with dogs, west village
Michael Vick, in the first of what he hopes will be dozens of appearances around the country to urge low-income youths to avoid dogfighting, spoke to a small gathering in Atlanta yesterday — but most press was banned from the event.
Vick’s visit to a suburban Atlanta community center was largely off limits — both to the news media and most members of the neighborhood it was supposed to be helping. Only 55 people and a crew from “60 Minutes” were allowed to attend, the Associated Press reported.
An Associated Press reporter, videographer and photographer were among the media banished from the property by police. Most people who live in the largely black neighborhood southeast of Atlanta were unaware of Vick’s appearance.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the group wants to be open and reach as many people as possible with its anti-dogfighting message, but Vick’s handlers insisted on tight controls on the meeting.
“We don’t want this to be a flash in the pan,” Pacelle said. “We are committed to transparency over the long run and having Michael involved in many community-based events to speak about the issue. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he wants the opportunity in a controlled setting to make his first statement on the issue. But I’m sure he’s going to be speaking out more based on what he had to say today.”
“We’re giving him an opportunity to plug into our community-based forums,” Pacelle said. “But he obviously has his own set of individuals who are working with him and want to present things in the way they want.”
Posted by John Woestendiek August 9th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 60 minutes, anti-dogfighting, appearance, atlanta, campaign, community, dogfighting, first, hsus, humane society, meeting, michael vick, private, public, talk, urban, wayne pacelle, youth