Wednesday, January 19, 2011

UPDATED: Caught On Tape: Washington Square Park's Rat Killer, Not To Be Confused With Washington Square Park's Squirrel Killer

New York City has a rat problem; this has been well documented. So would anyone care if an unleashed dog stalked and killed the rats of Washington Square Park slowly and painfully? Unlike the recent squirrel maulings in Washington Square Park reported by Animal Tourism—and resulting determined enforcement of leash laws by Parks Enforcement officers—rats might not warrant the same concern. Which is too bad for the multitude frenziedly killed by the dog at left.

There is a documented history of dogs being allowed to kill and maul rats in Washington Square Park for sport. The video above was filmed a couple of years ago and uploaded online a few months ago. The videographer, who did not own the dog, told NYC The Blog the dog "would leave rat carcasses all over the Park for the maintenance guys to clean up the next morning...that night, it must have killed 10-15 rats." This raises interesting questions, particularly in context of the recent squirrel maulings there. If dogs are allowed to stalk and hunt rats, it seems reasonably evident that a squirrel or two might also be targeted.

As mentioned by Animal Tourism, killing or hunting wildlife in city parks is illegal, to say nothing of any anti-cruelty law that might apply as well if circumstances warrant. Do rats count as a wild animal? I've since learned that wild animals are sorted into "peculiar legal categories" and it's not clear if rats in New York City fall into any wild animal category at all. Regardless, "animals," as defined by the State of New York, "includes every living creature except a human being." Further, it is against state law to "torture or cruelly beat or unjustifiably injure, maim, mutilate or kill any animal..."

"Unjustifiably" seems to be the key word there. You are encouraged to kill rats on your own private property, to "wipe them out," as the city directs. The city itself is engaged in a constant battle to eradicate rats from their own parks. Does this exclude rats from the protection of the law above? Do rats receive any protection as a wild animal? And does anyone care about the animal rights of rats in New York City??


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