Is investing public funds to track rat infestations a trap? Toronto's medical officer of health thinks so.
At the February 27 board of health meeting, a report by Dr. David McKeown on a city rodent control program concluded that stats collected from the city hotline suggest rat "infestations are at a relatively low level."
McKeown said, "There is currently no conclusive data to indicate that Toronto is experiencing an increase in rat infestations that would justify an enhanced [extermination] service."
Councillor Jane Pitfield is a bit squeamish about McKeown's claims. After all, the city's 338-RATS hotline received 1,207 calls in its first year of operations in 2005, a healthy number considering that most residents don't know the hotline exists. Some 200 of those complaints were serious enough for the city to send out staff to investigate.
Judging by complaints she's received, Pitfield says rats are rampant in certain parts of the city and that Public Health should be stepping in to stamp out the problem where it exists. Under the current rules, it continues to be the homeowner's responsibility to get rid of the pests.
"I think it's interesting that we have a hotline people can call, but the city isn't prepared to step in and control [infestations]," says Pitfield.
She says the city should use the 50 pest control companies it's already contracting to identify problem areas.
But Ted Berdowski , president of the Structural Pest Management Association of Ontario, which represents 135 companies, says they're too busy catching rats to collect data for the city. Isn't that evidence enough?