Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
For nearly a decade, one group has chased the city's most notorious pests with their faithful pets.
While New York City waits for the MTA's massive rat-sterilization efforts to pay off, a group of dog enthusiasts are doing their part to get the pests off the streets.
Since 1995, the Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society (R.A.T.S.) have been getting together at night to let their canines hunt the city's least-admired animals. It's a modest bit of help to a city with an impossibe-to-determine but unquestionably massive rat population.
According to the Associated Press, New York City spends over $600,000 a year trying to fix its rat problem. A pilot program focused on controlling rat populations in chronically infested neighborhoods is currently underway. The city also has a Rat Information Portal (R.I.P.) that allows users to see what buildings are rat-infested and which ones have passed Health Department inspection.
Reuters photographer Mike Segar followed around R.A.T.S. and their dogs during the group's "Christmas in July Rodent Hunt" earlier this summer. The group appears to be doing the city a service—but more than anything else, they just want to let their pets get in touch with their instincts. “This is all about the dogs, Richard Reynolds, the group's leader tells Segar, "and letting them do what they were born to do: hunt.”
Only four rats, according to the photographer, were killed that night.