A "large increase" in rats leaving the sewers and infesting city streets and suburbs has emerged during the coronavirus pandemic as pest control teams have been curtailed, Dublin City Council has said.
Rats, described by one councillor as big enough to “put a saddle on”, are eating through brickwork and circumventing traps to infest homes, gardens and even cars.
Recent warm weather, fewer people on the streets and increased illegal dumping had encouraged more rats into the open, the council said. However its ability to tackle infestations had been reduced as the Health Service Executive (HSE) pest control services were restricted during the pandemic.
Sinn Féin councillor Daniel Céitinn said south inner-city residential areas around York Street, Montague Court and Bishop Street were becoming overrun with rats.
“They are nesting in broken drains and seem to be becoming more aggressive in their search for food. They’re also getting into cars and ruining the engines,” he said. “I understand resources are scare at the moment, but not dealing with this is creating another health emergency.”
Críona Ní Dhalaigh of Sinn Féin said the age and poor state of repair of many flat complexes made it difficult to deter rats, but there was also a problem with some residents throwing food over balconies. In Oliver Bond Street she said rats were so big "you would only be short of putting a saddle on them".
Infestations were multiplying in the suburbs too. Fianna Fáil's Racheal Batten said there were particular problems in estates around Beaumont. Reduced activity during Covid-19 restrictions "seems to have given them a better chance to breed", she said.
Independent councillor Noeleen Reilly said there were similar problems in Ballymun. "I've never seen illegal dumping as bad, and that is definitely leading to an increase in rats."
The council said there had been “a large increase in the number of rats coming up from the pipe networks and onto the streets” and “we had instances where rats had eaten through brickwork in manholes and somehow managed to get by trap gullies on the roadways”.
Controlling the rat populations was becoming increasingly problematic because of stricter regulation of poisons and because rat “enforcement action” was a matter for the HSE.
"During the Covid-19 crisis, the HSE did not carry out pest control in our flat complexes, as they did prior to the pandemic. In the absence of the HSE, Dublin City Council continued to provide this service, which placed additional strain on our resources," the council added.
The HSE said it had been restricted on entering homes during the pandemic, but had continued to provide external “rodent control”. It would recommence entering properties from June 15th.