On a warm June night, revelers flock to Washington’s trendy Adams Morgan neighborhood, and they’re not the only ones: In the aisles, rats are also feasting in droves along with leftovers from the bars and restaurants.

But the orgy of waste suddenly ends in a deluge of barking, gnashing of fangs and spurts of blood, the result of a rodent hunt conducted each week by a dozen dogs flanked by their masters.

“Good, Henry!” shouts to his Lurcher, who has just killed the first prey of the evening, 28-year-old dog trainer Marshall Feinberg.

The American capital regularly appears in the top 5 cities with the most rats in the United States, a problem made worse by milder winters, a growing population and more and more outdoor dining spaces since the pandemic.

The city received nearly 13,400 pest-related calls in 2022, nearly 2,000 more than the previous year, according to local media.

Some residents have therefore decided to tackle the problem head-on.

The putrid smells of garbage cans mixed with urine fill the air as the crew goes deeper into the alleyways. Dachshunds, terriers and greyhounds dive under dumpsters in pursuit of game.

The masters, of all origins and of all ages, who come as much from the city and its suburbs as from neighboring states, met on social networks through their common passion for rat hunting.

Bomani Mtume, a 60-year-old retired policeman who came with his Cairn terrier Barto, joined the group in March when it started.

“When we started hunting, they (the rats) weren’t even running, they were just watching the dogs,” he told AFP.

Teddy Moritz, nicknamed “Mamie La Mort”, who is a legend among hunting dog lovers, brought back his son and his teenage grandson from Delaware.

“It’s a good way to fight against rats in a natural way,” she says.

The poisons take several days to exterminate these rodents while the dogs quickly break their spine, preventing them from smelling anything.

“Primitive but effective”, launches the septuagenarian.

Always full of vivacity and endurance, Teddy Moritz stamps her foot on a garbage can to redirect an escaping rat to the pack.

The team manages to kill over 30 rodents in the space of three hours and happily pose for a few photos with their trophies, before tossing them in the trash.

“What you have just seen is the very definition of teamwork. Dogs and men working together to exterminate vermin in order to help our city”, exclaims Marshall Feinberg.

He would like to found an association that would provide extermination companies with dogs considered too aggressive to be pets.

While there is little scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of rat hunting, according to rodent expert Bobby Corrigan, the practice dates back hundreds of years when dogs were trained to fight rats. rats in farms.

“There is no doubt about it, lately dogs are being used again to exterminate rats”, with an increase in commercial demand, he says.

The poison can also harm other species like hawks and owls while traps can take days to kill rats, making hunting the more humane option, according to Mr Corrigan.

But dogs aren’t the only ones tackling the problem of rodent proliferation in the city. Cats also do their part, mainly hunting mice.

Rue, a semi-wild stray cat who has become a local star, has thus helped to overcome the mice of the Greenstreet Growers garden center in Alexandria, in the suburbs of Washington.

“It kills a few mice but it mostly has a deterrent effect,” says Tim Williams, the store’s operations manager. “It’s the fantastic double benefit of having a cat here, everyone loves to see her.”

19/06/2023 08:09:53 –         Washington (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP