Arlington, VA

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.”

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