Residents express frustration with town’s response to rats

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Burrowed holes such as this are likely caused by rats, according to Animal Control Officer Felicia Camara. Courtesy photo

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Several residents voiced their complaints that more needs to be done in response to numerous reports of rats seen across town.

Jackie Connolly of Gertrude Road went before the Board of Health at its April 26 meeting to address a rodent complaint, and was joined by several others. Connolly talked about an “infestation” of rats from a nearby wooded lot where she has seen approximately 24 burrows. She and her husband have set traps and killed 23 rats so far. Connolly added that several of her neighbors have had damage to their vehicles from rats chewing on wires.

I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights,” said Connolly. “I feel violated from them. An exterminator said I had done all that I could.”

Rats in North Attleborough have been a problem for the last year. The causes are numerous, including mild winters, a lack of predators, and the shutdown of restaurants during the early days of the pandemic. This eliminated a major food source for the rats—dumpsters with old food—and forced them to find a new one.

Connolly cited the quick response from Health Agent Sheri Miller-Bedau and Animal Control Officer Felicia Camara, but said the town needs a larger team to solve the problem. She said cities like Somerville have installed rat boxes to electrocute the animals. Businesses and developments could be inspected for rat-related issues and those that don’t comply could be fined, and those fines used to pay for exterminators.

Health Department Director Anne Marie Fleming said that the department doesn’t have the budget to hire exterminators and that none of the staff are licensed for such work. Board member John Donohue said residents who see rats should report them to the Board of Health and can take measures to remove them, such as putting trash bags in barrels instead of leaving them outside for collection day.

Putting the bags out is like ringing the dinner bell,” he said.

Brian Quinn of Gertrude Lane said residents have done what they can to make their yards and homes rat-free, but the burrows nearby make it impossible to solve the problem.

To hear ‘we’re working on it,’ it’s not good enough,” said Quinn. “We really need some action here.”

The burrows Connolly has seen sit near a nearby apartment complex, though there has been some question regarding the property lines. Miller-Bedau said the department has filed an order for remedial action and that the owners have complied. Once that stops, she said further action can be taken.

It was at this point that the board decided to move on with the meeting, that the rat issue wasn’t the only matter to be dealt with and nothing could be done that night. This made the residents angry, as they felt they weren’t being given the chance to speak. Connolly encouraged everyone present to continue attending the meetings.

It’s not right, you’re shutting us down,” she said to the board. “You’ve had enough, well we’ve had enough too. Let me tell you, I’m a dog with a bone and I’m not doing to let it go.”