National Geographic : 1917 Jul
THE RAT PEST ning of such legislative action has been made in the United States, notably in New Orleans and San Francisco. The State of Indiana has a drastic law providing for the destruction of rats on all premises, and giving the Governor authority to set aside one "rat day" in spring, when the public should join in a general effort to destroy these pests throughout the State. Unfortunately this law makes no provision for rat proofing as well as killing rats, and until amended will be seriously defective. Meanwhile, through lack of proper pub lic sentiment behind it, the law is not being enforced. Measures for the control of rats should provide for certain fundamental require ments as follows: New buildings should be made rat proof under rigid inspection. Existing rat-proof buildings should be closed to rats by wire mesh or fine grat ing over all windows and doors accessible to them. Old buildings not rat-proof should be remodeled and concrete, wire mesh, and other material used to render them practically rat-proof. Harboring places, such as old sheds, piles of trash, old lumber, wooden side walks, open stone walls, and garbage dumps, should be abolished. All garbage and food waste on which rats may feed should be protected from them and promptly removed. All markets and other public buildings should be promptly rat-proofed and fre quently inspected. All ships engaged in sea-going, coastal, and inland waterway traffic should be fumigated at stated intervals for the pur pose of destroying the rats which harbor in them and are thus transferred from place to place. So-called civilized man has had with him from barbarous times a variety of vermin, including insects and mammals, nearly or quite all of which are carriers of deadly diseases. Only within a com paratively few years have advancing knowledge and public sentiment com bined to bring about any considerable efforts to subdue and eliminate these pests. The public is rapidly awakening, however, to the dangers involved in them and is becoming more and more deter mined in its efforts to control these causes of enormous losses, both in property and human life. Through the efforts of Dr. L. O. How ard and others, the house fly-the "ty phoid fly," as it has been well termed-is now under the ban of general public dis approval. The Spanish War developed the fact that the mosquito was the carrier of yel low fever. Another type of mosquito is known to be the carrier of malaria. The European War has brought to almost universal public knowledge the fact that body lice are carriers of the deadly ty phus, and many diseases are known to be carried by other insects. Among these deadly carriers of death and destruction none equals the house rat in its tremendous drain on the pros perity of nations by its destruction of food and other property, while at the same time it is the deadliest of all to mankind as a disease carrier. Within historic times it has caused the death of untold millions of human beings and its devastations are still in progress. There is little doubt that the time will arrive in the not distant future when persons maintaining rat-breeding resorts on their premises will be looked upon with the same disfavor that now visits those who harbor vermin of a lowlier degree.* *A bulletin giving brief practical advice for rat-proofing structures and for destroying rats has been published for distribution by the Bio logical Survey, U. S. Department of Agricul ture, Washington, D. C. Written inquiries for expert information on these subjects may be directed to the same address.