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Tag: vermin

The rat-hunting dogs of New York City

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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

rats1The dogs are trained to kill rats by shaking them until their necks break. Despite that, it can get pretty bloody, observers say.

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)