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Neighborhood worries rat infestation threatens their pets

Frank Edwards says he has been battling a

Frank Edwards says he has been battling a rat problem in his West Islip neighborhood with traps, seen here on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

Among the quadrants of fenced-in backyards lining homes on Kingsland Avenue in West Islip, an unwelcome infestation of rats has residents scrambling to trap and kill them before they inundate the enclave.

Frank Edwards, 81, and his wife, Paula Edwards, 74, purchased several plastic rat traps for about $5.25 each after they started seeing rats scurry across their back lawn around the end of June.

The Edwardses, who have lived in their West Islip home for 42 years, said they fear for their two dogs, a beagle named Lucky, 10, and a shih tzu named Teddy, 5, both rescued from shelters.

“I don’t know how ferocious these rats are. I don’t know if they’ll kill our little dog,” Paula Edwards said. “The town should do something, anything to stop this.”

Islip Town spokeswoman Caroline Smith said the town had no record of anyone from Kingsland Avenue calling about rats, but in such a case, they would be referred to the Suffolk County Department of Health. Grace Kelly-McGovern, a spokeswoman for the county health department, said no complaints from Kingsland Avenue are on file.

“We get hundreds of complaints, but it is good to know that rats are common on Long Island,” Kelly-McGovern said in an email. “Sometimes, if a wooded area is cleared, rats are displaced and may look for new places to live.”

Diane Sebor, 65, a retired candymaker who lives next to the Edwardses, said the plastic traps they set up in their yard have so far caught one “giant” rat, which she said measured “more than a foot long,” as well as three smaller rats that appeared to her to be babies. Her 3-year-old goldendoodle, Kali, chases after them.

“The first time I saw one, I was bringing my dog out into the yard and I saw it running along the fence,” Sebor said. “It just skeeved me out.”

Sebor said the rats get into the yard by burrowing through mulch and under fences. Each time they plug up the holes, Sebor said, the rats just dig new ones. On Tuesday morning, Sebor said she found the peanut butter bait on two of the traps had been eaten but the trap hadn’t activated.

“I got these kinds of traps because I didn’t want to poison them, I wanted to try and be a bit humane,” Sebor said. “Plus, I couldn’t risk my dog or other dogs ingesting it.”

Neighborhood residents said they don’t know where the rats are coming from.

Frank Edwards said he called the Town of Islip’s department of public works, and was told to contact the county health department. A representative there told him that, if requested, an employee would be dispatched to the neighborhood to educate residents on how to handle the rats themselves, Edwards said.

The health department’s advice to homeowners is to keep their properties clean and don’t feed pets outdoors or leave any pet food outdoors. If there’s an issue with a neighboring property and a resident believes the rats are coming from unsanitary conditions, they could call the department’s bureau of public health protection at 631-852-5900 and an inspector will be sent to investigate.

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