About the author: Geoff Charnley is a retired Environmental Health Officer of 40 years and a Fellow of the The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
He lives in Chandler’s Ford and regularly contributes to local social media Streetlife where he discovered a few too many concerns from local residents about rats!
Locally, there seems to be growing concern about the rat population in the Chandler’s Ford area, if the number of comments in the social media site Streetlife is anything to go by. Also confusion reigns about how best to tackle the issue ranging from traps, shooting, various poisons and plaster of Paris!
There is obviously the need for comprehensive community based action; ideally with Eastleigh Borough Council taking the lead and each of us doing our bit to help! The Council’s website offers some advice on some of the things we can do and advertises its pest control service for which we have to pay.
What could you do about the rat problems in our community?
Council’s legal responsibilities to the public
Their website doesn’t appear to have any information about the Council’s legal responsibilities or their policy and practice to ensure its delivery – for example how they prevent, monitor, regulate and ensure effective control / eradication plus enforcement policy.
Nationally, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health offers clarification and expresses concern about the DIY use of poison baits, reduction in pest control services provided by councils and an increasing rat population exacerbated by central government cuts in local government support grant. Here is CIEF’s policy briefing note on charging for pest control services (pdf).
About our furry foe
The The Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) is ubiquitous in the UK. Without our extra help (!) its numbers are naturally controlled (like other wild animals) by the availability of food, water, shelter (habitat, protection from predators, nesting materials), warmth (protection from wind, rain, cold).
Examples: Weil’s disease / urine and other diseases by cross contamination.
Gnawing electric cables, gas and water pipes, household doors and woodwork.
An omnivore, it likes the same food humans, pets, garden birds & animals like! Even eats soap to survive under adverse conditions!
This agile creature can shin up your wall between drainpipe and brickwork into the loft or wriggle through small gaps to find shelter e.g. under garden sheds, decking, or via a broken wall air-vent to gain access under your house floor!
What can we do to help ourselves?
Keep a watchful eye out for rats and signs of rats (droppings, black smears from their fur around regular entry/exit points in buildings plus rat runs often between food/water source and nest). Any more sightings than say a couple per month should be reported to the Council Environmental Health Department, at least for their monitoring information whether or not you decide to tackle your rat or mouse problem yourself.
It seems you’ll have to pay £23 if you want the Council to come out and give advice, so if you don’t at least make a note of the dates and times of the incidents, what you observed and when you reported the matter to the Council.
Remember your house and garden can offer wonderful encouragement to rodents. Are your seeds and bulbs in rat proof containers? Rats love food scraps and fat-balls just as much as the birds. The lint from the warm air laundry drier and those plastic and hessian sacks in the corner of your garage offer cosy nesting materials!
Block off obvious shelter/nesting places and rat runs. Place your compost bin on open-jointed paving slabs unless you want Roland Rat popping his head up when next you visit his centrally heated winter den!
Talk to and work with your neighbours to find out the extent of any local rat problem and agree your action plan. It may be better to seek professional advice at this point especially if you intend using poison baits!
Do your homework online on rodent control and the use of poisons
Always follow the instructions carefully since haphazard use can lead to warfarin resistance in rodents and to the deaths of other non-target creatures.
Keep children and pets away; they are also susceptible to warfarin based poison and will happily root under the shed or chest of drawers where you think you’ve carefully placed it out of their reach!
What should we expect from our council?
Under the provisions of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949, Councils have a legal DUTY to ensure the control of rats and mice in their areas of jurisdiction.
Nearly all councils used to provide a FREE service for householders until budget cuts started in earnest from central government many years ago. Then some started charging everyone except e.g. households on state benefits and OAPs, and now charging is much more common.
Warfarin resistance in rodents
The inevitable result was DIY rodent treatment by householders who didn’t wish to pay for a service they thought their council should provide for free.
Haphazard use of off-the-shelf poisons by inexperienced householders ONLY treating their own properties instead of a comprehensive neighbourhood/area approach, has resulted in warfarin etc. resistance build up (rather like we now see anti-biotics resistance in humans!).
Correspondence through Streetlife about rats would indicate the need for comprehensive survey and treatment in Chandler’s Ford!
The 1949 Act enables the Council to serve statutory notices on business, residential and other occupiers to eradicate rodent problems. They can stipulate the actions you must take and they have powers to undertake the work in default AND/OR prosecute you if you fail to take action.
The Council has a duty to inspect its area for public health nuisances (without your having to pay!) and you may find this approach helpful if say a neighbouring property occupier fails to take reasonable action to eradicate the rodent problem originating on his property/land and adversely affecting you.
And if you don’t feel your council is supporting you?
Contact your local Ward Councillor, explain the issue and ask him/her to pursue the matter. The media can sometimes help move mountains if all else fails!