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NYC wants to give rats birth control to curb the rodent population

New York City's city council introduced a bill to put rat contraceptives on the streets instead of poison.
NYC wants to give rats birth control to curb the rodent population
Posted at 7:42 PM, Apr 12, 2024

It seems New York City leaders have again concluded that they can't kill enough rat lives to solve their problem, so why not try to nip the issue at the bud instead?

The metropolis' city council introduced a bill Thursday that would establish a "rat contraceptive" pilot program (yes, those two words are really right next to each other).

The program would require the state's Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene alongside Sanitation to deploy pellet-like contraceptives in two designated "rat mitigation zones," each stretching at least 10 city blocks. Then each month for a year, the DOHMH will have to inspect the areas to tally "all rat signs" and report the findings to the mayor and council speaker.

Councilmember Shaun Abreu, the bill's prime sponsor, says the "humane alternative to rodenticides" is more effective at reducing the number of rats in the city and is safer for other animals. It's a particular issue after Flaco, an owl who escaped the Central Park Zoo, died in part due to ingesting too much rat poison. 

SEE MORE: Flaco, the iconic New York City owl, had rat poison in his system

"Flaco deserved a city that doesn't poison its own wildlife," Abreu said in a post on X announcing the legislation, which is nicknamed "Flaco's Law."

It's the latest attempt New York City has made to control its bustling rat population. Besides poison, they've tried traps, keeping trash in containers, a "rat czar" and even "rat academies" to teach about rodent mitigation. 

But even though the introduction of contraceptives might sound like a wild addition, it's not the first time the city's tried it. Last year, the city tried using the same contraception method but in liquid form in Bryant Park, and it failed. Abreu told Gothamist the pellet form is more successful and that the other program was too short.

If Abreu's pilot program is successful, providing enough contraceptives to the entire rat population in the city might prove another obstacle according to Loretta Mayer, a scientist working with Abreu who created the contraceptive, per The New York Times. But she told the outlet the cost is low; it'd just be a matter of production.


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