Sydney's lord mayor orders ratcatchers to cull rodents over rare disease killing dogs

Clover Moore says construction boom has stirred up rats that potentially carry leptospirosis bacteriaSydney’s council ratcatchers will double their efforts to thin a growing rodent horde that is potentially responsible for the deaths of seven dogs due to a rare disease spread by rodent urine. Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can kill dogs in 48 hours and is also fatal to humans, had never caused a canine death in New South Wales. But in the past three months there have been seven. On Monday the lord mayor, Clover Moore, said she was taking drastic measures against the vermin that have been “stirred up” by unprecedented levels of construction .
Clover Moore (@CloverMoore)

From today, we’re doubling the number of rat baits across the city, adding to a network of 430 existing boxes, to deal with an increase of rats in our city. pic.twitter.com/YL29hYFbsa

“We have been very concerned by the recent cases of leptospirosis in Sydney , affecting dogs in our local area, so have decided to double the number of rat bait stations in public areas and increase inspections to monitor rat activity,” she said.

The council will run 860 bait stations and will deploy additional baits to specific locations based on complaints from locals.

Leptospirosis is stored in the kidneys of infected rats, spread in their urine, and can stay alive in water and moist environments. All confirmed fatalities occurred in the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills.

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In February the council said Sydney’s construction boom was “stirring up rat populations” and “leading to increased rat movements” after five rats were spotted in a chicken chain restaurant, and one was seen in a dumpling restaurant.

Veterinary experts say this could be behind the leptospirosis outbreak. An ecologist, Peter Banks, from the University of Sydney, told the Daily Telegraph larger, hungrier brown rats were becoming the dominant species in the city. There is a vaccine for leptospirosis and it is commonly prescribed for dogs in Queensland, but not in NSW due to its previous rarity.

Moore said she had also asked for cooperation from other government bodies because the council can place baits only on land it owns.

“We can’t fight the rat problem on our own,” she said. “The city has written to Sydney Trains, Property NSW, Sydney Water and NSW Land and Housing Corporation to urge them to increase baiting and monitoring of rats on their land.

“We also need residents and businesses to take care with food scraps and other waste. Our regulatory staff will continue to target poor waste management practices and illegal dumping in hot spots.”

City of Sydney employs 135 staff to monitor and control rats.

Pet owners have been advised to discuss leptospirosis and potential vaccination with their vet.

No night vision goggles needed! Dogs’ eyes contain a special membrane, called the tapetum lucidum, which allows them to see in the dark.

They are also advised to keep their dogs away from puddles and ponds and wash their hands when feeding or touching their dogs. The disease is spread through the mouth, gum, eyes and skin abrasions.

Prof Jacqueline Norris, an expert in veterinary medicine from the University of Sydney, said affected dogs become lethargic and abnormally quiet, stop urinating, and could develop haemorrhages on their skin, or blood in their urine.

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