Council votes to come up with strategy to counter Toronto's rat population

CBC News reported on April 27, 2018 that City Council votes to come up with a strategy to counter Toronto's rat population as a result of a motion that I moved at City Council. You can view the full article below or at the link here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-to-formulated-rat-infestation-strategy-1.4637567

Council votes to come up with strategy to counter Toronto's rat population

Rat reports crawl in from more areas of the city

The city of Toronto has asked staff to compile evidence to see if a rise in rat sightings indicates growth in the city's rodent population. They will also formulate a plan in the event of a rat infestation. (CBC)

City council has voted to order staff  to come up with a plan to deal with rats as more reports of rodent sightings surface — this time in the Bloordale area.

"It's definitely time to call the pied piper," said Liza Lukashevsky, who owns the Nut House on Bloor Street West near Dufferin Street, and is the chair of the neighbourhood's Business Improvement Area.

"We've seen, in broad day light, huge rats crossing Bloor Street. We see huge holes that are rat holes that they go in and out of. We do feel that they are taking over."

Liza Lukashevsky owns the Nut House on Bloor West near Dufferin. She's also the chair of the Bloordale Business Improvement Area. She says there's been an increase in the number of rat sighting in recent years. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

The reports prompted local Coun. Ana Bailao, who represents Ward 17, Davenport, to table a motion calling for a city-wide investigation into a possible rodent infestation.

"We've been hearing from different parts of the city, from residents and business owners, that they feel there's been a significant increase in the rat population," says Bailao.

"And we want to see if that is the case, so we need staff to look for data. And we need a plan to tackle that both on the city side and also to help homeowners to deal with the situation."

City council voted 39 to 2 in favour of Bailao's motion to have the city manager, the medical officer of health and Municipal Licensing and Standards come up with a rat mitigation plan by next year. The city's agencies and departments will have to incorporate that plan into capital works projects.

Coun. Ana Bailao tabled a motion to have city staff collect data on rats and if there's evidence of a city-wide infestation. (CBC)

"Other cities in the world have a strategy to tackle these issues," said Bailao. "We now understand it's happening in different parts of the city."

But Suzanne MacDonald, an associate professor of psychology and biology and an animal behaviour specialist at York University, isn't sure there is evidence of a rise in the number of rats, although the idea has burrowed itself into the minds of many.

"I wouldn't believe this any more than people saying they have a raccoon problem," she said.

"We need to know how you define the problem: Is it different than it has been in the past? There are rats all over the city of Toronto. You need some evidence that there's a problem."

"It's hard to get the data," said Bailao, adding it requires coordinated effort from such city departments as Animal Control, Water and Waste Management, Transportation and Public Health.

But anecdotally, she says the problem seems to have become worse over the past few years.

"We're a growing city with an increase in population. And with lots of construction that disturbs rats underground, so I think we need to take that into consideration. Maybe it's not that abnormal for a city our size."

Back in Bloordale, Lukashevsky definitely thinks the rat problem is worse, with some people reporting hundreds if not thousands of rats.

She says the epicentre seems to be in the Bloor West and Dufferin area. not far from Bloor Collegiate Institute and Kent Senior Public School.

Area residents say these holes near Bloor and Dufferin lead down to burrows where hundreds, even thousands of rats live. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

"It's become a huge feeding ground for the rats; they come up at night ," said Lukashevsky, who points to dozens of holes in the grass that she says lead down to rat warrens.

It's near the the corner where Amil Niazi and Matt Murphy enjoy a spring walk with a child in a stroller.

"This is creepy as hell. Knowing we're standing on rats," said Murphy.

But Niazi looks at it more philosophically.

"They're here to stay ... They were here before us and they'll be here long after us."

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