City crews assist after rats swarm over Ashmont yard

Dot Rats not welcome: Paul Shea with the remains of his porch, which he partly dismantled in an attempt to rid his property of rats. Photo by Alex OwensDot Rats not welcome: Paul Shea with the remains of his porch, which he partly dismantled in an attempt to rid his property of rats. Photo by Alex Owens

The ‘Dot Rat’ is the unofficial mascot of the neighborhood for people of a certain generation. Rodents are fun when they're smiling from the front of a t-shirt.

But, when they’ve infested your porch and yard? Not so much.

That’s the predicament now facing 55 year-old Paul Shea and his elderly dad, whose property on Magdala Street — close to Ashmont station— was swarming with the large critters this week.

Shea was cutting down a couple of trees on his front lawn last Wednesday when he noticed one of the vermin dash underneath his porch. Noting several burrowing holes and other signs of an infestation, Shea contacted several city departments to no avail.

He immediately set to dismantling the porch’s lattice work to root it out, and laid out rat poison. He then contacted City Councillor Maureen Feeney, who saw to it that service crews from the city’s Health and Inspectional Services (ISD) departments were on the site by Monday morning setting out everything from rat poison to old fashioned spring-loaded traps.

“I demand that I get the services that the our taxes are paying for,” said Shea. “I want to thank Councillor Feeney for how quickly she got me some help out here.”

“It’s a very unsettling situation, and one that we take very seriously,” said Feeney. “When you are living on a street with rats, all you want is to get them out of there as quickly as possible.”

By Tuesday morning, Shea had disposed of at least 12 rats, each nearly the size of a squirrel. Shea, a retiree, lives with and cares for his elderly father in the house where they have lived for 41 years. His father, an 83 year-old veteran of the Boston Police Department, expressed concern that the animals would enter the house. They have not to date.

“It’s grim, but the fact that he is finding the rats means that our traps are working,” said John Meaney, the director of environmental services under ISD. According to Meaney, the rats may have come from the sewers after their nests were displaced by the melting snow, construction and other disturbing factors. The space underneath Shea’s porch provided an ideal sanctuary for the rodents, says Meaney: It’s dark, quiet and features a mound of bricks, left behind after the house’s construction, to serve as nest.

The “good news” is that the infestation has been isolated to the Shea home, although ISD agents passed out notices to the neighborhood and did continue with a check of the neighboring homes, finding two houses on nearby Van Winkle St. with sanitation violations.

“We want to urge everyone to keep their own properties maintained,” said Meaney. “If [residents] think that someone is causing a hazard on [their] street, just give us a call and we will come take a look.”

Meaney provided several tips for avoiding infestations, including checking the foundation for burrowing holes and tidying any outdoor spaces.

Exterminators will be visiting the Shea household daily to check and re-supply the traps and poison until the infestation clears up. Shea has taken it upon himself to re-assemble the lattice on his porch.

“It’s a mess, and it’s costing me money. I don’t want any more stress from this,” said Shea. “But I do want to bring some awareness to this issue.”

If you think you have an infestation call Environmental Services at the ISD Office at 617-635-5300.