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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dogs On "Rat Runs" : Canine Hunting Instinct Versus The Ugh! Factor

           Photo by Michael Appleton for The New York Times

Would you let your dog loose in a dark, garbage bag-filled alley to hunt rats? Well, some otherwise normal Manhattan dog owners do, and have no regrets.  We all know that many dogs, some terriers in particular, were bred specifically to hunt small vermin, including rats, and if allowed some roaming time, say, near a barn in the country, will often  return toting a small dead creature. Parental Unit has fond memories of her mother swooning as she opened her (urban) kitchen door to a smashed rat lying placidly next to the morning paper—a gift from our beloved Miniature Schnauzer, Benjie. As far as we knew, Benjie never actually killed these rats, all appeared to have been already flattened by a car, but he seemed to take great pride in bringing them home for our viewing pleasure.

But this recent New York Times article features an ever-increasing group of pet owners who've kicked it up a few notches. They meet with their dogs in trash-filled alleys after nightfall, and when the coast is clear, unleash their furry companions on an urban rat hunt. "Members say it allows their dogs...to indulge in basic instinctual drives by killing a dozen or or two dozen rats each time they are let loose." This group has been meeting for nearly 15 years, and during that time, "some [police] officers have gone from initially being suspicious...to suggesting rat locations and wishing us luck," claims the groups unofficial leader. Regardless, these defacto hunts are not illegal in New York City.

They even have a veterinarian who regularly participates with her dog (she asked to remain anonymous because it wouldn't go over so well with her clients). But she believes that the hunting "provides mental stimulation" for the dogs, which city dogs sorely need. But as you might guess, not everyone is keen on these nightly killings: The New York State director for the Humane Society of the United States says that the dogs run the risk of ingesting poison consumed by the rats, in addition to being directly exposed to other diseases. He believes that "...it's not good guardianship for the dog."

O.K., what side do you take: A relatively harmless pastime that engages your pup's instincts, or a disgusting and dangerous way to spend an evening? Let us know!

Me? I think I'll stick with my fake furry (and clean) toys that make squeaky/squealing sounds (like they're dying) each and every time I hunt them.


Unknown said...

OMD no way here as we have foxes and they are not nice at all and never mind busy roads. Bet the dogs love it but not sure we like it.
Have a tremendous Thursday.
Best wishes Molly

Frankie Furter and Ernie said...

OKAY... this helps the City to keep the Rat population down. Although the people are Delivering their pets to the Locations... the dogs are free to decide if THEY want to take part in the hunt or not.
We see it as a win win situation. The city gets rid of some RATS... the dogs who want to hunt... hunt. They are NOT being directly HANDLED like dogs who are in Agaility Trials or even the newer Barn Hunting trials... which do use LIVE but totally UNHARMED Rats. Dogs who take part in Those two activities really have little choice. They are TRAINED to perform the tasks that the humans have engineered...
I wonder just how many dogs would Freely CHOOSE to Climb or Jump or Weave... if they were simply allowed to wander and freely explore an agility course. Or a Barn Hunt course either.
SO... I say.. if the folks don't mind driving their dogs to Possibly Unsavory sections of NYC... and the dogs choose to take part... it is great.
NOW ALL THAT BEING SAID... If there were a Barn Hunting Club CLOSE to ME... (there is NOT... I have checked) I would take my boys and let THEM give it a Try..

Laika said...

Me I'll stick to my (maybe not so clean) fakefur toys.

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