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Humane Pest Control Options

Posted Oct 23 2013 7:00am
Dr. Coates is a veterinarian based in the other “Sunshine State” – that's Colorado to the rest of you – where she lives and plays with a varied range of animals. She shares her professional and personal experiences, Monday through Friday, here on petMD's blog, the Fully Vetted. Log in for your daily dose of her insight and wisdom. < Previous Post Next Post > Oct 23, 2013 Humane Pest Control Options by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM     Share       Save to mypetMDOne of the great joys of becoming a veterinarian is the diversity of jobs that are available to those doctors who choose to “think outside the box.” Even for those of us who pursue a relatively traditional veterinary career focusing on (or writing about) private practice, opportunities occasionally pop up that are decidedly outside the mainstream, like the one that I’m just finishing up with now.
 
The practice that I currently work for focuses on end of life care — particularly veterinary hospice and in-home euthanasia. As part of this work, I have become very familiar with euthanasia techniques and the updated AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals that were released in 2013. As if this focus was not odd enough in and of itself, it recently got me involved in a panel that looked at and rated the relative humaneness of a wide variety of rodent control measures.
 
People who appreciate and choose to share their lives with pets tend to have an overall fondness for animals, but speaking from experience, that fondness doesn’t necessarily translate to the “vermin,” for lack of a better word, that invade our living spaces. Don’t get me wrong. I like mice and rats. I’ve owned mice myself and am a vocal advocate for choosing rats as pets over hamsters and gerbils (they’re much friendlier and less likely to bite). That said, I certainly don’t want the rodents who frequent my neighbor’s “compost” heap (in truth, it’s just a pile of rotting garbage) to decide to overwinter inside my house.
 
I understand the need for rodent control, but I suspect that like many consumers, I want it done in the most humane way possible. I can’t go into the details of our panel’s findings since they haven’t officially been released yet, but here’s the gist of what we determined.
 

The most humane rodent control measures available are the electronic repellants. They work by emitting high frequency sound waves that are so annoying to rodents that they avoid the areas where they are in use. Several of these products have been tested on dogs, cats, rabbits, etc., and have been shown to have no effect on these species, but of course they shouldn’t be used anywhere near pet rodents.
The least humane rodent control measures are the poisons (e.g., brodifacoum, diaphacinone, chlorophacinone, warfarin, and bromethalin) and glue traps. Both of these options produce prolonged and severe suffering in affected animals, and have the strong possibility of directly or indirectly having a serious adverse effect on non-target species (e.g., cats, dogs, birds of prey).
Falling in the middle are the other lethal-control measures. Some are superior to others, however. Electronic mouse and rat traps seem to work quickly enough that suffering is minimized, as do certain snap traps. Contrary to what you might think, some of the old school wooden snap traps seem to perform the best.

 
A type of home rodent control that the panel didn’t evaluate is one that I have personally found to be very effective — cats. I can’t say they’re especially humane, at least during the “elimination” phase of control, but I suspect their continued presence is an effective repellant for many rodents.
 
 

Dr. Jennifer Coates
 
 
Image: Thinkstock
 
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Danika Hyssong Rodent Control 10/23/2013 09:27am I grew up in an old farm house with a crawl space. We'd get mice every couple of years or so. That's when you pick up the next black snake you see crossing the road and shove him under the house. You didn't hear any mice after that! Now I live in the city and this summer had rats move into my backyard. I haven't been able to find any snakes so I've had to settle for disturbing their rat holes in the yard. They're no longing living in my yard but I think they're still in the area. I'm hoping they don't come into the house this winter. Reply to this comment Report abuse 1 Piccolo Live mouse trap 10/23/2013 11:17am I am horrified by the incredibly cruel pest control measures available and used by the consumer as well as the "professionals". So when I had a mouse problem I really struggled to find a solution. Very important: Take the time and effort to plug all the entry holes. Then I used a "Smart Mouse Trap" available on Amazon. This is a live trap and works incredibly well but it is essential that you check the trap frequently, as in every few hours. Otherwise this great little trap becomes an inhumane death trap! The release of the mouse is also a problem. I took the mice to a nearby field to release them and tossed a bit of bird seed out to ease the release process for them. Mice do not wander that far so I was not concerned about them coming back in - the holes were plugged after all! This at least gives the mouse a second chance at life. Reply to this comment Report abuse 5 TheOldBroad 10/23/2013 06:55pm Well done! I applaud how you dealt with the mice. I've thought that live traps would be a good solution.

I once had a mouse that couldn't have been very high on the evolutionary scale because it kept coming into the house and, at the time, I had *cough cough* several cats. It eventually passed away under a throw rug. I suspect someone played with it until it crawled under the rug and died. Reply to this comment Report abuse 1
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