You and Mr. Rat (US Dept of Health, Education, and Welfare and WRC-TV, 1972)


[Narrator:] The following program is brought to you in living color by NBC. [Music] [Baby tosses and turns while crying in his
crib.] [Mother:] Okay, Okay! Here’s your bottle. [Rat scampers around on the floor while baby
is being fed.] [Baby crying.] [Woman runs out of the house screaming.] [Narrator:] Not a pretty sight is it? No, rat bites never are. But treating rat bites, or all the diseases
rats cause is one thing, preventing them is another. That’s where I come in. I’m Jeff Gannon. My job, Director of Rat Control for the city
health department. At least that’s my official title. Mostly, people simply call me the rat man. That’s Joe Barnes just leaving. He’s new on the job, but turning into a good
rat man himself. And so is George Wilson there. Sometimes George and I work together, most
times we don’t, but either way he’s tops. Been at it twenty years. [George:] Another rat bite, Jeff? [Jeff:] A baby again. Mercy Hospital. Multiple bites on the face and hands. It shouldn’t bother me after five or six years…but,
it should never happen. [George:] Don’t let it get you down. Think of all the cases that don’t happen because
you’re in their pitching. [Narrator:] Well, as usual our work was waiting. All cases of one kind or another that we have
to investigate before we can send a crew out. Where? Most everywhere. We get the word from hospitals or the police,
from homeowners, store owners, or tenants, anybody who calls in for just one reason. He’s got rats. [Young lady:] No sir, my mother wasn’t home
when the baby got bit. She works and I keep the baby. [Jeff:] But if you were with the baby, how
come? [Young lady:] I mean, I just gave her a bottle. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? I can’t watch her every minute. [Neighbor:] You know mister, the kids around
here don’t care. They don’t care one bit. Did you hear about all those rats? Well, we sure got ’em around here. [Jeff:] I can see that, and apparently the
kids aren’t the only ones who don’t care. [Narrator:] And that suits the rats just fine. Listen to the rat man, all they want is a
place to live. A messy place, where they can gnaw their way
through doors or loose screens or jump right in through broken windows, holes
around pipes or in the walls. Just enough room for a runway between their
food and their shelter. A place to bore into the ground and come up
inside a building. Enough rubbish to build their nests and have
another litter in less than a month. And what they want most of all is enough to
eat. There’s an old saying in my business “If you’re
feeding ’em, they’re your rats.” They’ll eat most anything too. Even spoiled food that would make people sick. For them, garbage is a well-balanced diet. And the closer that food is, the better. Rats don’t like to travel far. Or in the open. Or in the daytime. Too dangerous. Just grab it quickly and then hide. That’s the way they want it. Rats are smart. [Jeff:] Okay ma’am I’ll notify the owners,
and then get a crew out here to set up poison bait and try doing some ratproofing. Meanwhile, you folks in the neighborhood better
start cleaning up. Or else these rats will be hanging around
on the streets. [Woman:] Well I don’t know, it sure ain’t
going to be easy but we’ll try. You know, they’ve always lived here and probably
always will. [Narrator:] Sure, they’ve always lived here,
and why not? Almost like ringing the dinner bell for every
rat in town. Exactly what they need and want to set up
housekeeping. Rats go through the drums for you. Too big for the city to handle, no lids. Shouldn’t be used for garbage in the first
place. [Resident:] Something the matter, rat man? [Jeff:] Yes. That’s a real mess you’ve got there. Why don’t you get good cans, with lids. [Resident:] Not my problem, I just live here. [Jeff:] Sure you just live here, you and the
rats. [Manager:] Rats? Heck yeah, we got rats. Man it’s like I told you, I’m not the owner. I’m
just the manager. Besides, ain’t nothing I can do. [Jeff:] Mister, I’ve given you two warning
notices, now you get a penalty ticket. Once the owner pays the fine in court, you
can bet he’ll tell you to start acting like a real manager. [Restaurant Owner:] Look, I don’t want rats
in my restaurant. You think I’m crazy? If the city would do its job I wouldn’t have
’em. [Jeff:] The city does what it can, but the
citizen is in this thing, too. We can’t keep house for you. [Resident 2:] This used to be a good place
to live. Look at it now. Before these ole rats started coming around. [Jeff:] Don’t blame the rats lady, don’t blame
anybody. Just keep in mind that it takes a bit of effort
on everyone’s part to keep a neighborhood clean and neat so you won’t have rats. [Narrator:] Oh yes, there are thousands of
rat bite cases every year. Most of them infants with food on their faces
after eating. Or, older persons. If we get them promptly to treatment, most
wounds usually heal satisfactorily. Unfortunately, many victims also suffer from
the agony and pain of rat-bite fever. [Jeff:] Biological warfare, rats versus people. You betting on the people, George? [George:] Sure, just the same as you are. Just like you say, war is everybody’s business. It has to be. That’s why more of ’em have got to join up. [Jeff:] Right, and if cats were the rat- catchers
people think they are, we wouldn’t be mixing tons of poison bait,
ratproofing buildings, or forever holding clinics. [George:] Cats, dogs. what’s the difference? They’re not much better than traps really. Like the butcher shop case. Ahh, that was before your time, Jeff. [George narrating:] It was over on the west
side. And the butcher used traps, and he caught
a rat now and then… so he figured he had the problem licked. Most people do. But man, the ones he didn’t catch must have
had a picnic every night. Why, with all those scraps, it’s a wonder
he ever caught a rat in a trap. This was all in the backroom, of course, so the customers had no reason to suspect
a thing. Not then anyway. Most people expect places that handle food
to be clean as a whistle. But they sure knew something was wrong when
that food poisoning hit ’em. And I mean them! Men, women, kids. Why that food was so contaminated from rat
droppings left on his table, that butcher could’ve poisoned a small army. On top of losing his customers, he got a good
case of lepto all on his own. Probably from infected rat urine, and the
mop water got right into his system. Anyhow, he sure got the message. [Jeff:] Leptospirosis huh? Complete with chills, vomiting, muscular aches,
that’s pretty serious. [George:] You better believe it. [Dr. Lee:] I am Dr. C. Bruce Lee of the research
and development office of the Environmental Control Administration
of the US Public Health Service. We have with us today Mr. Harry B. Pratt,
Chief of the Rodent Control Branch of the Environmental Control Administration. How are you, Mr. Pratt? [Mr. Pratt:] Dr. Lee, it’s a pleasure to be
here today. Uh, we plan to use this motion picture in
many places throughout the country where there is a rat problem. But particularly in the twenty cities which
are funded under the Partnership for Health program. [Dr. Lee:] Could you tell us something, where
these cities are located? [Mr. Pratt:] Well as you can see on the map,
these twenty cities are scattered from coast to coast. Uh, including such very large cities as Chicago,
Cleveland, New York, and Washington. [Dr. Lee:] How much money is the federal government
allocating for this rat control program? [Mr. Pratt:] Well, in the first year of operations, the federal government has spent about fifteen million dollars. particularly in places like Chicago, New York,
and Baltimore where there are existing programs, and in certain places like Atlanta and Nashville
are where the money is used to start new programs. [Dr. Lee:] Can you uh, tell us some information? Does
the program cover an entire city? [Mr. Pratt:] No. Usually there’s not enough money to cover
an entire city, so the work is concentrated for effective
rat control in the low-income areas. Quite often in the Model Cities or in the
Model Neighborhood area. [Dr. Lee:] Now that’s interesting. In these areas, who does the actual work on
the program? [Mr. Pratt:] Well, each program is planned
and directed by trained engineers, biologists, and sanitarians with broad experience in insect
and rodent control work and uh very frequently, years of work with
the health department. However, the majority of the workers are recruited
from the inner city where the control work is being carried out. [Dr. Lee:] You mean to say that we have people
working on the program who have grammar school educations and who
have been to high school? Are they working on these activities? [Mr. Pratt:] Yes, as you can see here, uh,
some of these men are dropouts or people who could not go further in school
because of lack of money. However, they can be trained to do very fine
work in a number of types of jobs, such as collecting rubbish. Or they can be used to observe rat signs,
as you see on the corner of this door here. Uh, rats’ teeth grow four or five inches a
year and they can gnaw through many building materials, even lead pipe with their sharp teeth. Notice along the edge of this building, a
rat runway. Rats feel comfortable when they’re using the
same path day after day between their homes and the source of food. [Dr. Lee:] These signs are very interesting,
of rats being about, but what else do the men who are engaged in the program look for when they make an inspection? [Mr. Pratt:] Well, of course the most important
thing, we feel, is the checking to see about refuse storage and garbage, because garbage and refuse furnish the food
and nesting material for the rat. It’s amazing how many garbage cans have no
bottoms or tops. There’s no place for the bottomless or topless
fad in refuse storage. [Dr. Lee:] Well, since we have no place for
the bottomless or topless fad in refuse storage, what do the control workers do when they find
garbage cans which are unsatisfactory? [Mr. Pratt:] Well, of course the first thing
they do is to come up and meet the householder and try to get him to buy new garbage cans. Uh they try to get rid of old appliances,
old automobiles, places where rats would hide in the backyard. This is probably the most important thing
that each householder can do, is to have good refuse storage on his own
property. [Dr. Lee:] Well this is important to note,
we must have good storage places for refuse, on property. Now, are rats confined to particular areas
of the city? [Mr. Pratt:] We can start in the sewers. So these sewers, then, serve as a place where
the rats can hide and they can travel. And of course they can come up into some of
our very best houses right through the floor drains. They can even crawl and swim through a toilet,
into our basements. [Dr. Lee:] Now that’s most amazing and it’s
sort of chilling to think that even in my own home… [Mr. Pratt:] Right… [Dr. Lee:] I could have a rat coming in by
this means. Uh of course I am interested in knowing what
are the methods used for killing rats? How do you go about killing them? [Mr. Pratt:] Well of course, on the big city
program we use three types of rodenticides, that is, rat-killing chemicals. We use uh, the anticoagulants, we use red
squill, and we use zinc phosphide. Now the anticoagulants are a chemical, which
is mixed usually with yellow cornmeal. This sort of thing here. Now the rats must eat this for four or five
days consecutively before their blood begins to lose the ability to clot, or coagulate, hence the name anticoagulant. After this period of time, four or five days
to a week or more, they become weak and actually die painlessly from loss of blood. Now there’s a built-in safety factor. If your child, for instance uh, should happen
to eat this once, or your pet should eat this once, there’s actually no danger from one feeding. No sickness, no death. It must be eaten four or five days in a row. [Dr. Lee:] Well, it’s good to know this, that
there is this built-in safety factor and I’m pleased because I do have children. Now I’m concerned, what would I do if I found
I had rats or mice about my house? [Mr. Pratt:] Well, of course if you had rats,
the best thing to use are these anticoagulants, because of this built-in safety factor. Now they can be bought and used in a yellow
cornmeal mix, it’s soft like this, but it tends to blow, so a number of manufacturers
have made it in a pellet form which does not blow around nearly as much. This comes probably in fifty or more different
types of commercial formulations. [Dr. Lee:] This is fascinating to see the
uh, packaging in which these poisons come. I remember as a child that they often said
that a trap was best baited with a piece of cheese to tickle so a rat’s nose, it almost makes
them sneeze. Now, is cheese the best bait to use for traps? [Mr. Pratt:] Well of course most housewives
feel that cheese is the best material to use in baiting a mousetrap. So it’ll be done like this and of course you
put the trap on hair-trigger. But actually, we have found that you can get just as many mice or more with apples or peanut butter. a nutmeat, or many other types of things that
are in our houses, like bacon. [Dr. Lee:] Well then, what do you do about
rats in buildings, for instance? [Mr. Pratt:] Well of course rats are much
bigger, so we use essentially the same type of snap-trap uh, which we would set like this. And uh you put your bait here and it would
go like that. On the other hand, if this is the wall now,
like this, we can sometimes trap the rats by having an expanded trigger of cardboard
or metal as you see here. And uh you’ve got to be very careful Dr. Lee, because this is uh, something that could catch
your finger very easily. Now if this is the wall, we don’t set the
trap this way so that the rat comes in and is thrown away. We try to get it so that as the rat travels
along the wall that way, why, it is caught you see, as it goes along the treadle. Now, there’s still another type of trap that
we use that essentially is unbaited. This is called a steel trap. Now this one again, you can catch your finger in and have a real good little wound. But if you use real caution and set it like
this, and then you come under and set it at hair-trigger, remembering that one jaw of the trap is free,
why then you can do it. Now if this is, again, we don’t set it this
way so that if the rat runs along it’s thrown out, we set it this way. Then as the rat comes along it’s caught in
the trap as you see there. These, then, are some of the things that we
do as we uh, try to get rid of rats and mice in our houses. [Dr. Lee:] I’m glad to have you the person
who’s demonstrating these traps on the, on the program. But what does all this mean to the average
householder? [Mr. Pratt:] Well of course to the average
householder uh, this means that rats are something that they should try to
get rid of as quickly as possible. Now let us look again at our motion picture
and see a little bit more about the urban rat problem. [Footsteps] [Mr. Barnes:] So the rat is a stealthy, clever
enemy. He can climb up wires and pipes, squeeze through half-inch holes, jump up and out three feet, jump down and out eight feet. Even drop fifty feet and still survive. He starts fires, destroys food and valuables, contaminates even more, and when you multiply the damage of a single
rat by the rat population of the US, about one rat for every two persons, the yearly
loss skyrockets to more than a billion dollars. So how do you change the picture? By eliminating a rat here and there, not a
chance. You have to control the entire rat population
and the first step is to eliminate the one thing that supports any population. Food. A single open garbage can for example, will
support just so many rats, no more. But add a few more messy cans, then the mess of a city block, plus that of an entire neighborhood, and suddenly you’re supporting a king- sized
rat population. [Jeff voiceover:] Amen, Mr. Barnes. A lot of food, a lot of rats. Less food, less rats. No food, no rats. Way I see it, most people are so close to
their rat problem, they overlook the most obvious solution. Especially when they’re blaming somebody else. As always, it boils down to communication, to telling him point-blank, “Look, if you
want to get rid of your rats, quit feeding them. Quit giving them hiding places. Rats won’t stay in an area where they can’t
get food and shelter. So when you take it away, you take away the
rats.” Here’s the idea. You see that? It’s a jumbo-sized, always-closed container to handle a jumbo-sized garbage and rubbish
problem. And it does just that. What’s more, the city thinks it’s great. To me, most excuses are cover-ups for doing
nothing. But if anybody, a manager, owner, or tenant
ever had reason to cover up, it’s right inside his garbage can or outside
of it. With just a bit of conscience, a bit of pride,
and a bit of effort on everybody’s part, people can get rid of their rats, and they
will, if everyone keeps working at it. [Jeff:] I mean that. Every word of it. There’s no doubt that the rat problem is serious
in every city, large or small. We can’t ignore it and we can’t wish it away. But we can do something about it. Each one of us. I’m betting on the people in this war on rats. How about you? [Truck engine revs] [Dr. Lee:] Harry, your film says that the
rat problem is serious in this country. Just how serious is the urban rat problem. [Mr. Pratt:] Well, every big city has a rat
problem. This varies of course with the age of the
housing, with the condition of the housing, and with the amount of food and harborage
for rats. Now, in the map that we showed you before,
in the twenty cities where we examined, we found about two thousand yards, out of
twelve thousand carefully checked, had signs of rats outside the home. This is roughly one-sixth, or sixteen percent. But even more important uh, sixty-one percent
of the blocks in these cities had at least one yard with signs of exterior, rat signs outside
the home. [Dr. Lee:] Well these uh, statistics, the
few that you’ve given us are most revealing, and I was wondering does this, are these indications
that give us any uh, way of knowing what steps you’re making in
controlling uh rat, the rat problem? [Mr. Pratt:] Well, we’re making a rather sizable
amount of advance success in cutting down the number of rat bites and
in cutting down the actual prevalence of rats in these cities. Uh for instance in New York City, the number
of rats used to be reported so that there were six hundred cases of rat bites a year. Then in a five-year period, from ’63 to ’67,
uh it dropped down to about five hundred and fifty. In ’68, there were only three hundred and
ninety rat bites reported in greater New York. And this year we only know about two hundred
thus far. [Dr. Lee:] Well, this does indicate that there
is progress. I can remember when I was a teacher many years ago, my children, when we were discussing rats, showed me fingers, and noses, and ears that had been bitten by rats when they were babies. This brought home to me the importance of
control measures. Now I realize that most of the film that we
have seen today has demonstrated the areas of town that you might say are poor,
which are, where people who live, who don’t have opportunities; however, rats are found everywhere, as you said. And one of the methods of control I assume
is that we must get everybody to cooperate, meaning the tenants, the residents, and the
people who own the property. It’s got to be a…it seems to me, a broad
attack involving everybody who has anything to do with the environment
in which rats are found. Would you agree to this? [Mr. Pratt:] I would think that this is very
definitely true and that this very definitely has a bearing on another significant part
of the rat problem, mainly about mental health and well-being. You take children that are brought up in the
inner-city uh, very frequently they grow up wihtout being able to sleep at night because the rats are up in the ceiling or they’re gnawing in the walls. There’s a fear of rats and of these ugly,
disfiguring scars. And in some work that we’ve done it seems
to us that uh, the rats uh, are probably the number four cause of unrest and turmoil
in the inner-city. Uh, following such things as human relations,
and poverty, and unemployment. [Dr. Lee:] It’s interesting to feel that an
animal, a small animal which has traveled with man from Asia to our country, could be a definitive cause
in unrest within our urban centers. My first experience was reading Hans Zinsser’s
book, “Rats, Lice, and History.” This is a rather old book, but it is still
pertinent. It gives the history of man’s reactions, his
relationships to this pest, this neighbor of man who has followed without his asking man about
the face of the earth from its origin in Asia. And I am more than pleased to realize that
the Environmental Control Administration and Public Health Service has within it a
program which is concerned with this rat control. Are there, is there any information the viewers
can secure concerning the uh, control measures uh, the activities that are
being undertaken in rat control. [Mr. Pratt:] Of course we feel that this is
a people problem and that we must have the people behind us. Now New York has done this, they have made
this sign. Seven things that every New Yorker should
know about their neighbor. And this brings home to them very clearly
uh, that these are definitely in their homes. We do a great deal of training with health
departments all over the country and we have recently produced this book: Control of Domestic Rats and Mice, which is available through the Government
Printing Office. Many health departments and other agencies
are using this with pictures of rats and uh trapping, of uh rodenticides and the
refuse storage, all these things. So go to your health department if you have
a rat problem and get advice from your health department. [Dr. Lee:] Thank you so much for coming aboard
to talk to us today, Harry. It’s a pleasure. [Mr. Pratt:] My pleasure. [Music]

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