September 9, 2019

To Hon. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams:

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, representing over 60,000 New York City humane voters, collectively write in response to the grotesque press conference you held on Sept. 5, 2019 and subsequent statements made regarding use of a cruel extermination device to drown rats.

We are troubled that you claimed the new contraptions, which trap rats, mice and potentially other non-target species attracted to the bait, and submerge them in an alcohol-based solution while they struggle to free themselves before drowning to death, are “humane”. They are not. As stated by a noted rodentologist, “[a]ny veterinarian in the world would tell you that drowning is an incredibly inhumane way to kill a mammal.”1

We are genuinely sympathetic to your office’s concerns about rats, and acknowledge that this is a difficult and complex issue. Understandably, most people do not want to confront rats in or around their homes. However, we are disturbed by the apparent ease and lack of misgivings in your parading of a cruel rat drowning device. Cheerleading for the killing of living animals sends a dangerous and destructive message, especially to children, as it encourages violence against animals, which is linked to increase violence against other people.2 We call for a forward-thinking, comprehensive, and truly compassionate approach to addressing the presence of rats in our city.

Our supporters, who include your impacted constituents, love and respect animals. Rats are wildlife, and part of our urban ecosystem. Furthermore, rats are intelligent, sentient animals who feel pain, and suffer, just like all other animals. Rats live emotionally rich lives, form strong interspecies bonds, have rituals, and mourn family losses. For example, in a recent psychological study where rats were given a choice of a delicious chocolate treat, or to save a fellow rat from a drowning death, each rat in the experiment chose to forgo the chocolate, and save his or her fellow rat.3

As leaders of New York City’s animal advocacy community, we must communicate our vexation that you developed and announced a significant policy proposal affecting animals at a well-coordinated press event without having made sure appropriate organizations were informed and offered the opportunity to provide input. You have often looked to our community for support for your initiatives in the past, and we have collaborated with you on efforts to protect animals in other areas. Our collective experience across the gamut of animal issues warrants that we be brought into any policy conversations where animals are directly impacted. Neither you nor your office’s staff consulted us on this issue. Failing to involve stakeholders and community members regarding any other issue would not be acceptable, and we expect the same deference with respect to animal issues.

Root Causes

Hundreds of years of experience has shown that exterminating rats cannot, never has, and never will eradicate them. Offering new extermination methods and killing devices as the answer for effective rat control is selling a false hope. You can kill 90, 100, or 1000 rats, but unless and until you address the root causes, additional rats will merely take their place and will continue to multiply.

A sustainable and successful approach must include prevention strategies. “ The best way to control rats is to discourage them from taking up residence in the first place…[a]ny effort to limit rat populations must be followed by taking the necessary steps—exclusion and sanitation—to make sure the same problems never happen again.”4 The presence of rats within apartments and buildings is evidence of infrastructure problems that extermination alone cannot solve, and requires exclusion, meaning the elimination of entry points.

More broadly, the primary causes driving the increased presence of rats in New York City, are gentrification, overdevelopment, dilapidated and underfunded housing, and substandard sanitation practices, which any serious effort to control the rat population must confront.

● Gentrification and overdevelopment have been recognized as key reasons for the recent increased sightings of rats in New York City.5 The rapid pace of construction has caused burrows to be dug up, forcing rats out into the open.6
● Dilapidated and underfunded housing in New York City impacts tens of thousands of residents who have been deprived of billions of dollars needed for vital repairs and maintenance.7
● Poor sanitation practices , including ineffective storage containers, improper
storage, and infrequent collection, create attractive food sources for rodents.8 So long as garbage and litter are common sights in New York City, it is foolhardy to think rats will not be.

Humane Approaches

Humane and effective alternatives are available to address the presence of rats. Fertility control contraception and sterilization for rats has yet to be widely implemented in New York City9, despite its availability10 and use elsewhere, including other major cities.11 This humane approach stands to be a far more effective manner of population control. Rats have short lifespans and reproduce rapidly, and as they are highly intelligent and skilled in logic, they learn to avoid traps and dangerous spaces. Unlike poison bait boxes and other death traps, which rats of the same colony inevitably learn to steer clear from as their family comes back ill or disappears, birth control is a far more practical and effective long-term approach.

Education and Tolerance

Misinformation and misunderstanding drives the common hysteria about rats. Educating the public about rats, dispelling myths from facts, and increasing tolerance and understanding about them, would prove to be a far more viable and successful response to people’s concerns than vilification and fear-mongering. Information about rats should be incorporated into educational programming about wildlife in schools, parks, public housing, subways, and other institutions throughout the city.

The reality is that to some extent, rats are here to stay. It is unrealistic and impractical, if not absurd, to think New York City’s entire rat population can be eradicated. While people have the right not to have rats inside their homes, just as humans can coexist with squirrels, birds and other wildlife elsewhere in our city, we can and must strive to tolerate the presence of rats to some degree.


It is reasonable to expect more than platitudes from elected officials who seek support from our community. While we applaud your efforts to implement plant-based food in schools, and other similar programs, drowning rats is cruel and parading their dead bodies as a public spectacle is callous. The lack of inclusion of the animal advocacy community about your decision, coupled with your office’s dismissive response to our reaction, has been very disappointing and frankly unacceptable. Had you invited us into the planning stages, this conflict could have been avoided.

We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you in the near future to continue this conversation with the goal of seeking a humane and effective approach.


Voters for Animal Rights
Allie Feldman Taylor, President
Jabari Brisport, Board Member
Joyce Friedman, Board Member
Heather Greenhouse, Board Member
Kathy Nizzari, Board Member
Michelle Aptman, Board Member
Julie Cappiello, Board Member
David Karopkin, Esq., Board Member and Wildlife Advisor
Matthew Dominguez, Political Advisor
Chris Allieri, Public Relations Advisor

Animal Cruelty Exposure Fund
Jessica Hollander, Board Member

Stewart Mitchell, Organizer, Brooklyn Parent and Author

W.I.L.D. for Prospect Park
Mary Beth Artz, Founder and N.Y.S. Licenced Wildlife Rehabilitator

Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director

Donny Moss

Chilis on Wheels
Michelle Carrera, Executive Director
Carla Athena, Volunteer Coordinator

Ready for Rescue
Doug Halsey, President and Founder

Microsanctuary Resource Center
Rockwell Schwartz, Board Member
Alexa Stonebarger, Safe House Operator

Collectively Free
Lilia Trenkova, Co-Founder

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) – New York City Chapter
Christina Liew, Brooklyn Organizer

Jewish Veg
Sara Eifler, Program Manager

V for Veganism
Kiirstin Marilyn, New York City Organizer
Karolina Tyszkowska, New York City Organizer

Total Liberation New York
Shai Navon

Mitigation Works
Meredith Schriver, Co-Founder and New York City-based Animal Advocate

Nathan Semmel, Esq., New York City-based Attorney and Animal Advocate

Jay Shooster, Esq., Brooklyn-based Attorney and Animal Advocate

Jessica Zafonte, Esq., New York City-based Attorney and Animal Advocate

Linda Mann, New York City-based Animal Advocate

Beth Gould, Satya Magazine Co-Founder and New York City-based Animal Advocate

Sangamithra Iyer, Writer, Satya Magazine Editor, and New York City-based Animal Advocate

1 Is This Revolting Dead Rat Soup The Future Of NYC Pest Control;, Gothamist (Sept. 5, 2019),

2 The Psychology of Animal Torture, Psychology Today Magazine (Nov. 23, 2016),; See also, Tracking Animal Cruelty, FBI website,

3 Rats Forsake Chocolate to Save Drowning Companion, Science Magazine (May 12, 2015),

4 What to do about wild rats, Humane Society of the United States

5 Rats Are Taking Over New York City , The New York Times (May 22, 2019), ; Gentrification is helping rats take over the city: report , Crain’s New York (May 22, 2019),

6 Rat Infestation in Brooklyn Spurred by Building Boom , BKReader (May 29, 2019),

7 New York City’s Public Housing Is in Crisis. Will Washington Take Control? , The New York Times, (Dec. 25, 2018),

8 See, e.g. New York City removed 110 trash cans. Now garbage is overflowing and the rats are ‘running wild’, USA Today (July 17, 2019),

9 Despite comments made that rat birth control was previously attempted and failed in New York City, this effort was conducted several years ago and apparently no information is available regarding how this pilot was carried out, the timing, scale, or location where it was conducted. See , New York City will deploy rat birth control in attempt to curb breeding , New York Daily News (April 17, 2017),

10 See, e.g. , ContraPest, ; Good Neighbor Backyard Rat Control

11 Inside DC’s Rat Control Academy , Washington Post (Aug. 12, 2019),