Chicago rats — Are they friend or foe?

One of Samuels' pet rats eats a treat in her home in McKinley Park, Chicago.

By Bian Elkhatib and Nikita Mandhani

Chicago is getting rattier. There has been an increase in rat complaints, and the city blames the irresponsible attitude of citizens towards garbage disposal and dog feces. Chicago’s Bureau of Rodent Control is asking all residents to keep their garbage lids closed and to pick up after their dogs.

In the meantime, the bureau is investigating all rat sightings in the city. To get rid of the rat population, the city is baiting the animals by placing rodenticide in rat burrows.

While many see rats as a problem that should be eradicated, there are some, like Charlotte Samuels, who love them.

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Samuels, of McKinley Park, owns four pet rats. When her rats are not in the cage, they are either scurrying around in a special play area designed for them or sitting on her lap on the couch.

Samuels believes the city’s method of rat control — baiting them with poison — is inhumane. She wants to see more preventative measures to quell the burgeoning population.

Photo at top: One of Samuels’ pet rats eats a treat in her home in McKinley Park, Chicago. (Bian Elkhatib/MEDILL)