Councilmember Steve Dicterow has found himself moved to address the plight of the poisoned bobcat by prohibiting the use of rat poison. He may as well be addressing the plight of all the predators who live near humanity.
Our main method of controlling vermin, which are vectors for disease, is poison. This results in our local predators eating a lot of secondhand rat poison. While it’s easy to find a sympathetic figure in a cute bobcat, sympathetic figures don’t always make for good public policy.
This proposal may violate a Murphy’s Law of Civics, which are a lot like Newton’s Laws of Physics. In this case, the Murphy’s law is: When you create a special advantage for one group of people, you create a simultaneous disadvantage for another group of people. Sort of like Newton’s Law, for every action there is an equal opposite reaction.
We’ll have bobcat lovers winning and rat killers losing. Is that what we really want to do? Fortunately, Councilmember Steve’s efforts are limited to the city’s rat killing, although around city hall is where one does find lots of rats.
The responsibility of regulating what Californians can use to kill rats rests with the state legislature. They are more immune to the emotional reactions of their constituents than a city council member. What’s more important to human health and safety, killing rats or saving bobcats?
Only a vaccine denier would have trouble with that question. Rats are a vector for lots of diseases that make people sick or kill them. Bobcats aren’t a vector and they aren’t eating rats fast enough to control them.
If they did, perhaps we could give up on rat poison. There are lots of things we can do in addition to using rat poison. Keeping our fruit trees picked, our veggie gardens fenced, our garbage secure and our pet’s food locked up would help reduce the need for poison.
But without poison, what’s left? Trapping and shooting? But how? Well, actually shooting doesn’t sound like such a good idea. Trapping might work. There could be a bounty. How much would it take to get the homeless to trap rats? It boils down to how many rats could a homeless rat trap if the homeless could trap rats? And how to be sure the rats are from Laguna?
Silly as this sounds, it isn’t nearly as silly as being the local bleeding edge of bad public policy.
Just like DDT, rat poison is an issue that needs to be decided on the state and national level.
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.