People accidentally kill cats & birds as councils cut pest control
Birds and cats are dying as many households turn to doing their own rat catching because councils have cut their pest control departments, leading to an increase in rat infestations – rat numbers are now up to an estimated 80 million.
According to The Times, Peter Crowden, chairman of the National Pest Technicians Association, said that residents’ efforts at pest control were killing birds and cats rather than rats because they were putting poison in the wrong place.
Mr Crowden said that technicians had called in saying that council departments were closing or setting prohibitively high charges. “The councils are advising residents to look in Yellow Pages to find private firms but many are choosing to go to the shops and buy poison,” he said.
The council in Peterborough, where he lives, shut its department two years ago, but he said that other councils were reducing or scrapping services.
The Local Government Association admitted that some councils were cutting pest control services entirely or raising charges. “In light of a £6.5 billion local government funding shortfall, some councils have decided to restrict the pest control service they provide to only the most vulnerable people in their communities,” said Richard Kemp, vice-chairman of the association.
Mr Crowden, who has discussed the problem with government officials, said the main problem was that many people did not know what to do with the poison they bought. “One man last week put the poison on a bird table last week and killed six birds while the rat remained under his garden decking,” Mr Crowden said.
Industry experts have reported a 40% rise in rodents in the past 10 years, to an estimated population of 80 million rats.
Other pest-control bodies blame blocked drains and fortnightly rubbish collections. At present councils are free to choose how they arrange waste collection but some ministers, including Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, have been pressing for a more centralised approach.
Nearly half of all councils collect rubbish fortnightly, partly because it is cheaper and partly because of evidence that residents recycle more when rubbish is collected less frequently. Last week sources close to Mr Pickles suggested that councils be given financial incentives to revert to weekly collections.
Mr Crowden admitted that increased rubbish was also a big factor in the rise in rat infestations. “With the loss of weekly collections there is far more fly-tipping as residents dump their rubbish — including food and nappies — in highway lay-bys which also attracts rats.”
Council refuse collections are considered a factor, but one of the main issues is that water companies are cutting back on dealing with drains to save money. Councils do not have a statutory duty to provide pest control.
A spokesman for Peterborough City Council admitted that the pest-control budget was scrapped in 2008-09. Any residents who called were given suggestions of who to ring but had to pay for the service themselves. The year before it was axed, the team was called out 2,223 times, of which 542 involved rats.