Cuccinelli Smells a Rat in D.C.

by ARLnow.com January 12, 2012 at 4:29 pm 9,072 86 Comments

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli called a local talk radio show on Tuesday to complain about rats in D.C. Specifically, Cuccinelli was peeved about a D.C. law — the Wildlife Protection Act — which, since March 2011, has outlawed some common pest control practices including the use of lethal traps on certain species of rats and mice (and on other wild animals that get stuck in homes).

“Last year, in its finite wisdom, the D.C. City Council passed a new law — a triumph of animal rights over human health,” he told the hosts of WMAL’s ‘The Morning Majority‘ show. “Those pest control people… aren’t allowed to kill the rat. They have to relocate the rat. And… that’s actually not the worst part. They cannot break up the family of the rat.”

“Oh no,” one of the hosts said solemnly as another loudly gasped. But what does any of this have to do with Virginia? Cuccinelli explained that wildlife trappers might now simply take the rats they catch in D.C. into Virginia.

“Actual experts in pest control will tell you, if you don’t move an animal about 25 miles, it will come back,” Cuccinelli said. “So what’s the solution to that? Across the river.”

“It is worse than our immigration policies, you can’t break up rat families or racoons and all the rest,” Cuccinelli continued. “And you can’t even kill them. It’s unbelievable.”

(The audio can be found at 92:35 here.)

Lest Cuccinelli’s rat rant seem a bit out of the blue, it is a topic that representatives of pest control businesses, including those in Northern Virginia, are still fuming over to this day. Industry leaders say the Wildlife Protection Act makes it prohibitively expensive for homeowners to pay for a letter-of-the-law pest control service. Such a service, they say, would involve trapping an entire family of animals in and around a home and then driving around the District looking for an uninhabited wooded spot to let the critters out.

In practice, according to Gene Harrington of the Fairfax-based National Pest Management Association, many pest control companies will simply try to skirt the law in one way or another. Rather than trying to find a safe spot to let the animals go in D.C., for instance, a company may simply decide to break federal law and transport the animal over state lines.

“If the District isn’t even going to let you use a snap trap to control a chipmunk or a squirrel, it’s just a lot easier for Commonwealth-based businesses to bring every animal captured in the District back to the Commonwealth,” he said. “They’ll simply just put them in the back of their truck, I’m sure, and take them across the river.”

While lethal traps are technically permitted for several common rat and mouse species, Jason Reger, the Virginia representative of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association, says that other rodent species are prevalent in the District and that it’s impossible for a trap to differentiate between the various species. Reger also contends that the Wildlife Control Act’s provision that allows animals to be trapped and then euthanized would be difficult to apply in practice.

Harrington, for his part, says he hopes changes will eventually be made to what he described as a “stupid, stupid, ill-advised, ill-conceived law.”

  • This thread brought to you by the Pest Management Association and the Committee to Re-Elect Ken Cuccinelli.

  • Andrew

    The good news is you can now have a gun in DC (I think, right?). Just shoot em!

  • Greg

    This isn’t true. Rats are exempt from the DC law. Nice try Cooch. What a winner we have in VA.

    • Chad

      Attachment A – Page 1 – Section 2. Definitions.

      (1) “Animals” or “wildlife” shall mean free-roaming wild animals, except commensal rodents, which are designated on the wildlife control operator license by the Department as species that may be controlled under this chapter by a wildlife or pest control operator. “Animals” or “wildlife” does not include domestic animals kept as pets, including feral dogs or cats.

      (2) “Commensal rodent” shall include the following species:

      (1) House mouse (Mus musculus).
      (2) Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus).
      (3) Roof rat (Rattus rathus).

      Seems pretty clear that Cuccinelli is a moron.

      • Arlingtoon

        I don’t think he was elected for his smarts, such as they are.

        And to think he’s a product of Gonzaga College High School.

        • Flying Spaghetti Monster

          Another repugnant Republican from the John Kyl “My statement was never meant to be factual” school of lies.

      • Arlwhenver

        Except the law has catch and release provisions for non-target wildlife as well as targeted wildlife. It helps to read the entire law.

        • Greg

          We’re talking about the definition of “Wildlife”, which does not include rats. It doesn’t matter whether they are targeted or not by the particular trap. They aren’t “Wildlife” under the Act.

          Nice snark though.

          • Zoning Victim

            There are about 64 species of rats and about 20 of field mouse, and only two of those 84 species are not considered wildlife under the law. So, you can’t say that “Wildlife” doesn’t include rats under the law. It includes rats and mice of many varieties.

          • CourthouseChris

            Except you aren’t going to find a Hoogerwerf’s Rat of Indonesia or Philippine Forest Rat in DC so the law covers the entirety of the rat population you are likely to find.

          • Zoning Victim

            You’re not likely to find other breeds, correct, but that doesn’t mean you will not find some of the others. It also doesn’t inlcude any field mice or the pack rat, which is pretty common (sounds funny, I know). I don’t get why they wouldn’t just say rats and mice. Most people can’t tell the difference, anyway, so are they really going to charge someone with killing a pack rat? It just seems kind of wierd.

          • Greg

            They probably don’t just say rat and mouse because commensal animals are the ones that are generally pests to humans. They’re the ones digging through your trash because humans are their primary means of survival.

            The others are wild animals.

          • CourthouseChris

            I’m sure I’m inviting a mocking from Novasteve here as a nonlawyer reading code; but does the language “shall include” not intentionally preclude all other “commensal rodents”, thus the exact definition is left to the “Department” (which dept I presume is specified elsewhere in the code not copied above) – so the field mouse and pack rat may well be on the approved hit-list.

      • K

        I don’t know enough about biology off the top of my head to recognize any of these 3 species, but if any of them are actually pests wouldn’t that also mean they are not “commensal” in the usual sense of the word?

        See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/commensal.

  • charlie

    Grueneberg ganglion

  • A brief clarification of Cuccinelli’s remarks on WMAL, as provided by his spokesman, Brian Gottstein:

    “He did not say they WERE transporting rats from DC. He said he was afraid that the DC law might encourage that activity, as it encourages catch-and-release techniques. The word from wildlife control experts is that to be effective in that method, animals should be released far from their catch point — perhaps across the Potomac in Virginia — so they do not return.

    The point he was making is that certain rats, mice, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, and other animals known to carry rabies, Lyme Disease, and other diseases have the possibility of being transported to Virginia, where they could infect humans.”

    • charlie

      you youngster don’t remember when the Pied Piper (Marion Barry) walked all his women (tricks) across the 14th Street Bridge so they’d be closer their customers (johns).

      cooch may have a point.

      • The Dean

        I remember wqtching that on TV. All the whores getting taxi rides right on the middle of the 14th st bridge.

      • I remember that. Awesome recall.

    • RationalThinker

      He said RATS and he sounded pretty confidant he knew what he was talking – even criticizing the DC City Council.

      ““Last year, in its finite wisdom, the D.C. City Council passed a new law — a triumph of animal rights over human health”

      “It is worse than our immigration policies, you can’t break up rat families or racoons and all the rest,”

      He is a VA based attorney, called a DC radio station and (mis) quoted DC laws. Seriously, is that ethical Mr. Spokesperson?

      • Zoning Victim

        He clearly stated in the beginning that this protected “certain species of rats,” and then just referred to them as rats. That may have been a purposely confusing way to refer to them, but it didn’t misquote the law. The guy is an attorney as you pointed out; he’s perfectly capable of causing confusion without actually saying anything clearly unethical, as they all are.

        • Quoth the Raven

          “as they all are”. Forgive me for taking offense at such a broad generalization.

          Unethical Attorney

          • Zoning Victim

            So should I take your offense and signature to mean that you have no idea how to introduce confusion into a conversation without violating ethics? If so, I hope I never end up with you as my attorney.

          • Quoth the Raven

            Please explain to me how interpreting the law makes him unethical, and then explain how “all” attorneys are unethical.

            You may not like the law, and you may not like his interpretation of it, but what he says is not untrue. The conclusions he draws from it (that rats are being sent to VA or whatever) are silly (at least to me) but that’s a different issue.

            But there is nothing wrong with interpreting the law, and then making an argument based upon that interpretation. That’s what attorneys do.

            Frankly, even if he totally misquoted the law and was 100% wrong on it, it still doesn’t make him unethical. It might make him look pretty stupid, but again, that’s different from being unethical.

          • Zoning Victim

            First, how about you read my post again and tell me where I said any of the things you’re accusing me of saying. The entire post is defending what he said as being completely ethical even if it was intentionally confusing, which it may have been (only Cuccinelli truly knows whether he was being confusing on purpose or not). I actually like Cuccinelli.

            I truly hope you are not an attorney, because you seem to have a reading comprehension problem that’s brought on by a lack of emotional control. Please, stop trying to be offended by my post, calm down and just read it again; I think you’ll find that you’re reading things into it that just aren’t there.

          • Quoth the Raven

            You said:

            “The guy is an attorney as you pointed out; he’s perfectly capable of causing confusion without actually saying anything clearly unethical, as they all are.”

            I read the part “as they all are” to modify the preceding “unethical” – mostly b/c it’s right next to it. But if you’re saying that “as they all are” instead related to the ability to cause confusion, then I get it. I thought you were taking a cheap shot at attorneys, which, you have to agree, wouldn’t be unusual for folks to do.

            Sorry I misinterpreted, but I’m not sure I exhibited “lack of emotional control”. That’s a bit strong, don’t you think? I was asking you to explain your post. I don’t think that qualifies as said “lack of control”. Read my post again (as you’ve asked me to do). Any personal attacks in there? No, those only come from you (“I hope I never end up with you as my attorney”). As for my reading comprehension, perhaps that could be better, but perhaps if the comment was written more clearly, reading comprehension wouldn’t be a problem. So chill out, and stop trying to read insanity and personal attacks into a post. As you say, they just aren’t there.

            Ironically, I think we feel the same way about the issue.

          • Zoning Victim

            Insanity, haha. Yes, we actually do seem to agree. It modified the whole statement, not the single word; I’m still not sure how that gets interpreted any other way unless the one is being overly emotionally sensitive to lawyer bashing. Then again, I did have to lookup where your screen name comes from, so literature is obviously not my thing.

        • Greg

          I don’t ever hear him say “certain species of rats”. He says that the radio guy is wrong that pest control people can be brought in to kill the Occupy DC rats because of this new law. That’s clearly wrong.

          His spokesman later claimed that Kookinelli was only talking about “certain species of rats”.

          • Josh S

            And how, pray tell, does the average exterminator tell the difference? Are they supposed to DNA test them?

            And even if there were “certain species of rats” that could be subject to this law, what percentage of the total number of rats in DC would these certain species be?

            And even if there were “certain species of rats” that could be subject to this law, what is their advocacy group? Do you think that anyone, anywhere is going to report an exterminator for failing to kill the rats that are plaguing their property – “oh no, Mr. Exterminator, you must transport those rats alive to a spot 25 miles away”

            Preposterous. Doesn’t he have enough in Virginia to keep him busy? Why in Sam Hill is he even getting involved in this?

          • Zoning Victim

            Right, since they can’t tell the difference, the argument goes, they may opt to always relocate so they don’t unknowingly violate the law, which will somehow lead them to take all of their rats to Virginia. As you’ve pointed out, the argument is razor thin.

            Despite my belief that this is a bad law for DC, I agree that Virginia doesn’t really have a dog in this fight and have no idea what Cuccinelli is trying to accomplish. Maybe he just needed some radio time.

          • Zoning Victim

            You’re right, I mistook the lead in comments for KC’s comments, but I still don’t think his saying “rats” throughout the interview instead of “most species of rats” as unethical.

          • Greg

            I don’t think it’s unethical either. I think he has probably had this issue on his mind and thought he had a good opportunity for a sound bite. He didn’t think it through, but I don’t think it was unethical.

          • Joe VA

            Is it unethical to spend his VA Attorney General time calling a DC radio station and criticizing DC City Council?

  • Justin Russo

    Doesn’t he have anything better to do with his time?

    Your next governor, folks.

    • Salmon Ella

      God help us if that happens.

    • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer

      Better someone go take a picture of his car.

  • OX4

    I truly loathe that man.

    • CourthouseChris


      • JackFan

        + Infinity

  • Paco

    Once again Virginia’s mini Rick Santorum speaks out on an issue completely irrelevant to the job he should have already resigned from.

    • bluemonter


      This guy has waisted more tax dollars chasing issues such as: “the world is flat” in the past few years, than any of his hated democratic rivals!

  • JimPB

    ARLnow.Com — please provide a copy of the DC law.

    Over the years I’ve heard assertions about law that weren’t sustained when THE law was read.

  • Keith

    Love me some mkhammer in the morning.

  • CW

    Did he really say “finite wisdom”?

    • Yes.


      It’s called “projection.”

  • MC

    I’m touched Cuccinelli cares this much about Arlington, really touched. I always thought he viewed Arlingtonians as human rats, but in reality he’s concerned we will be bitten by rapid creatures running loose because of crazy politicians.

  • RationalThinker

    Mr. Spokesperson, I need your help.

    From what I understand, he is a VA based attorney responsible for the Commonwealth of VA. He called a DC radio station – yes WMAL is inside the District line – he then criticized the DC council for allowing a lad that clearly did not and he clearly mis-understood at best. He sounded very confidant about his analysis of the DC law though even though he was wrong. He clearly used his title in Virginia to gain credibility in his criticism of the council while mis-stating facts.

    So do we report him to the VA or DC Bar Association?

    • Moira Brown

      Do whatever you want. Talk on the internet is cheap.

    • drax

      Yeah, if anyone should get a law right, it’s a friggin’ attorney general.


    He misquoted a DC Law
    He slammed the DC City Council for making that law
    And he scared the begebus out of Virginia residents concerning the unintended consequences of said law.

    A Trifecta! This political sequence, Grasshopper, is called the Hannity Formula.

    • Daniel

      Quadfecta…he compared rats to Latinos.

  • VA WCO

    Those that wish to bash the VA AG take a couple minutes of your life to read the Act. You obviously have the time. You might grab a dictionary to help define the terms that you obviously do not understand. Based on your comments you have not read the Act and without a wildlife biology background you will not understand it anywaise. His statements are true. You are as fake as the DC council that got fooled into passing a law that is not supported by biological science or sound wildlife management practices. Federal and state wildlife biologists have expressed concerns about the health ramifications of the act and DC Council ignored it. Did you know that DC has one of the highest reported rabies cases in the nation? More than Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax put together. Commensal rodents are roof rats, Norway rats, and the house mouse. What about the Marsh rice rat, deer mouse, and white footed mouse. They inhabit the district as much as the Commensal rodents. But, they are protected by the act and must be live trapped and relocated in family units. Family units! Really! The Act is based on personal feelings. A similar law was passed in Toronto and now people are getting bit by raccoons in the city parks while try to eat lunch. Go to HSUS web site. Read about their for profit venture called Humane Wildlife Services. Wow! Their business model reads exactly like the DC Wildlife Protection Act. Smells like monopoly to me.

    Please read the Act! Understand it!

    • brendan

      tl;dr……but nice try.

      • KevinC

        Ladies and Gentlemen, the superior Arlington intellect at work! Hiding behind ignorance will insure you never have to be wrong.

    • OX4

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Cooch. BTW, is “anywaise” some sore of biology term? Because I don’t understand it.

    • Zoning Victim

      Right, a quick search says there are about 64 species of rat. I don’t get why the DC council would only allow common trapping practices for the two of them that fall under the definition of “commensal.” There are also about 20 species of field mouse, which do not fall under the definition of “commensal.” Obviously, they are not all indigenous to the US, but the act puts pest control technicians in a precarious position, especially since the penalty for violating the act is the loss of your license.

    • Josh S

      ‘anywaise”? What is this, Jersey? Youse guys really oughta not try to sound smart iffn you aint.

    • drax

      The March rice rat? You’re worried about that?

  • Someone

    Why is he comparing immigration policy to rats? What does one have to do with the other? Why did that association even occur to him?

    • Zoning Victim

      That was a really silly comment. I mean the association is obviously the family reunification portion of our immigration policies, but it’s still stupid to compare to rats to immigration and then complain about not being able to kill “them” in the next sentence. If he really does want to be the next Governor, he’s going to have to do a better job than that; certainly, any opponent is going to have no problem making the point that he compared immigrants to rats.

  • Charles

    Koochy shouldn’t talk so loud about human health.

  • Terry

    Glad to know he’s spending his time fretting about DC laws rather than protecting Virginia’s interest. What a winner. And to think, this guy wants to be the governor.

    • brian

      Rats dumped in VA are not our interest?

      I hope the trappers put the rats in your back yard.

      • Zoning Victim

        There has to be something more pressing that is actually happening for the AG of VA to bother with than an issue that takes several qualifiers to even be a hypothetical issue.

  • Zoning Victim

    There are other provisions besides the non-lethal rat handling provisions I’d find troubling in there if I worked in DC in a related industry. It defines that: ““Wildlife control services provider” means the operator of a business which involves the charging of a fee for services in wildlife control.”

    The code goes on to define wildlife control: ““Wildlife control” means to harass, repel, evict, exclude, possess, transport, liberate, reunite, rehome, take, euthanize, or kill wildlife.” To harass, really? This could mean that any handyman who chases an unwanted pest from a dwelling while they’re working on it and charges their client for it may need to get licensed to do so, first. Of course, whether or not they need to get licensed will be up to some unelected bureaucrat’s interpretation of the law.

    If you’re classified as a “Wildlife control services provider,” you also have reporting requirements you must comply with, to be done in the department’s format, under the law:

    (1) Client’s name and address;
    (2) Date of service;
    (3) Nature of the complaint;
    (4) Methods employed to alleviate problem;
    (5) Number and species of wildlife handled; and
    (6) Method of disposition of all animals, including place of disposition of all animals.

    Yes, they’ll have to document every single animal they handle, down to the species; even if they just let it out of the trap somewhere because it wasn’t the animal they were trying to trap in the first place. Additionally, they have to compile reports every year that total up all of this information based on the operator (along with the operator’s name, address and phone number), and they have to keep all of this information, in the department’s format, for three years. These reports must be kept at the ready and provided to the Director “at any reasonable time.” They have also empowered the Mayor to charge for reimbursement of their costs for inspection. So if the Director doesn’t like you and the Mayor has put a charge for inspections in place, you could be very easily harassed by the department and have to pay them for their time while doing it.

    There is nothing wrong with licensing these guys and regulating the industry to stop people from doing things like injecting animals with nail polish remover (unless it’s a proven humane technique when compared to other forms of euthanasia, which certainly doesn’t sound like it’d be the case), but this law seems poorly written, confusing, full of overly burdensome reporting requirements and overly broad. This is the kind of stuff that bureaucrats use to make people’s lives hell. The only saving grace of these provisions is that it doesn’t appear that they provided for any criminal penalties. It doesn’t even appear that they’ve provided for any criminal penalties for operating without a license, unless that’s covered under some other general provision.

  • Soarlslacker

    I estimate that folks in DC just kill the rats and bag them in trash. What neighbor is going to see you with a dead rat and call the DC gov on you?

  • AlertAlert !


    It’s starting – DC is rounding up Rats to ship over the river !

    “Mayor Vincent C. Gray called on the National Park Service today to remove protesters from McPherson Square to “allow for elimination of the rat infestation, clean up, and restoration” of the downtown park.”

    • GT

      As usual, Cooch is ahead of the game and looking out for all of our interests.

  • nota gain

    Some of the DC rats are going to jail so they wont be in Virginia, hopefully.

  • Ethan

    Cuccinelli is a homophobic bigot; a sorry excuse for a human being.
    He should be exterminated.

  • Ivy

    Hahahaha! Now this fanatic wants to get into DC’s business.

  • Citizen

    They can catch the rats and release them at the White House.

  • K

    Regarding some of the comments from January 12, didn’t they get the definition of “commensal” rodents backwards in the legislation?

    Per multiple online dictionaries, “commensal” appears to be animals which are NOT living in a fashion which is detrimental to humans; and therefore, they should be considered “wildlife” subject to the relocation (if any wildlife is).

    I think perhaps the legislators meant to write the law to state, “non-commensal” rodents (the ones which ARE pests) are not subject to the relocation requirements and may be terminated.

    Did I miss something?

  • K

    Admittedly, if one assumed humans were the species benefiting from the presence of the rodents, the rodents would apparently be “commensal” if we didn’t harm them by doing so. But if we were not required to relocate the “commensal” rodent (and could presumably therefore kill it), wouldn’t that be to the detriment of the rodent thus canceling out its chance of still being “commensal?”

    Definition per, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/commensal

    World English Dictionary
    commensal (kəˈmɛnsəl) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]

    — adj
    1. (of two different species of plant or animal) living in close association, such that one species benefits without harming the other.

    Per me, could they have written this law to be any nuttier?

    • K

      How long has this law been debated? We have not been very critical in our own thinking unless I am one of the ones more in need of this virtue.

      Who are the “morons?”

  • K

    This law is interesting regarding “commensal” rodents.

    It appears, to me, to require that rodent NON-PESTS which are NOT otherwise specifically named by scientific genus and species are NOT required to be relocated (“commensal” rodents are NOT PESTS by the usual definition — and presumably may therefore be exterminated by the appropriately licensed parties). And yet, the law apparently permits certain specifically named species to be presumably exterminated even if they ARE pests while requiring the RELOCATION of all OTHER RODENT PESTS (which are unspecified by specific species otherwise)!

    Does that mean it is less helpful than the environmentalists suggest, and simultaneously, less harmful than claimed by those who are concerned about the relevant possibly excessive regulatory requirements???!

    Why does that not surprise me, regarding how politicians often craft things legally and technically while both sides keep inflaming.

  • B Forrest

    Take them to the homes of the D.C. City Council members and let them go there.

    Problem solved…

  • Gene

    I personally believe that there is an UN-mentioned reason for this insanity. It hits took close to home for the Two legged Vermin that inhabit Washington D.C. It is too painful for them to allow their “Furry-Four-Footed Cousins” to be exterminated.

    Suggestion? IF the “Two Legged” ones in Politics are worried, they can schedule a Special Vermin Extermination “Day, Week, or Month”, and during that time they can voluntarily decide to wear Special Armbands so that they are not inadverdantly mistaken for the their Four Footed Close Relatives! 0:-D.

  • A great article on the real issue with DC’s Rat Law


  • Katherine M

    EXACTLY!! :

    NOVA Brian:
    January 12th, 2012 4:34 pm

    This thread brought to you by the Pest Management Association and the Committee to Re-Elect Ken Cuccinelli.

    NOVA Brian nailed it.


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