No one really cares about a dying rat...
March 31, 2015 2:55 PM   Subscribe

My friend in Jamaica Plain, MA, has a suffering rat in his driveway. He can't get in touch with anyone who will come take care of it. Animal control isn't answering the phone, and the Angell Memorial (nearby animal hospital) said they won't euthanize it for him. Does anyone know who he can call to come put this creature out of its misery?

We've seen these suggestions for how to kill it himself, but he doesn't think he can bring himself to do it (unless someone knows a way that's REALLY super painless and easy and doesn't involve a hammer or a large rock, etc).
posted by désoeuvrée to Pets & Animals (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(unless someone knows a way that's REALLY super painless and easy and doesn't involve a hammer or a large rock, etc)

Freeze him. Use a shovel to put him in a bag and then freeze the bag. That's how I killed the last mouse I caught alive.

He'll be alone (and not right near a big scary human trying to kill him), in the dark (which is nice for rats), and there's no pain.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:10 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

Call the non-emergency police line, (617) 343-5630. I had to do this and they came and shot a close-to-dying-rat and removed it from my yard.

About freezing. I've read that it's a very painful way to die and it takes a LONG time. I can't vouch for how true that is, but if you can get the police to come and shoot it, that seems more humane.
posted by kinetic at 3:13 PM on March 31, 2015 [9 favorites]

Any chance he has a neighbor who's burly and helpful? I had a dying possum in my yard (my dog messed it up bad, and it was "playing possum" so she thought her job was all done and prancing about proudly) and my next-door neighbor, a general contractor, helpfully came over and broke its neck with a big shovel.

I imagine he's thought about neighbors already, but just in case he hasn't...
posted by town of cats at 3:24 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

Aw, shit. That sounds like a rough situation. I have some experience euthanizing wild mice by hand, but I'm not entirely sure how I would handle a mercy euthanization on an injured (I assume?) or poisoned wild rat. (Cervical dislocation, which I use in the field, is going to be SUPER difficult on a large rat as compared to a small mouse.) Either way it is probably not going to be pretty as the rat is probably already in deep distress. Freezing is specifically mentioned as unethical in our protocols and at work, where most of our animals are not euthanized by hand, we're actually expected to behead them after death so there is no chance an animal can wake up in the freezer.

We euthanize animals via CO2 overdose to minimize handling stress. My suggestion to your friend would be to get some dry ice and seal the rat in a smallish container with the dry ice. This kills animals relatively quickly (under 5 minutes for our mice) and fairly painlessly--with the rat, I would worry most about scorching the lungs with too high a dose of CO2 but that is not something I think you're going to have good control over in a home situation.
posted by sciatrix at 3:27 PM on March 31, 2015

Maybe call a local exterminator and see if they'll help you? It's possible they'll charge you a fee, but it might be worth it….
posted by Boogiechild at 3:54 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

try animal rescue league boston? I follow their rescue twitter and they often send people to rescue unconventional animals.
posted by ghostbikes at 3:56 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Animal Rescue League once came to rescue a pigeon in my driveway that had some sort of weird thing going on with its legs and was trying to drag itself to safety by its wings. The folks who responded were clear that all they could do was take it back to their headquarters and euthanize it, but that seemed better for it than being tortured by the neighborhood cats. They were very kind and didn't laugh at me at all for being concerned about a pigeon. Give them a call--the worst thing that happens is they say no.

(I did make a donation to the ARL as a thank you, so it wasn't strictly free...)
posted by jesourie at 4:01 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Memailed you.
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:02 PM on March 31, 2015

Freezing is not a painful way to die if done right. It's considered one of hte nicest ways to die because you just fall asleep.

I'd rather get shot in the head myself because you don't have to go through the shivering phase- but freezing is less messy.

I like boogiechild's idea about the exterminator too.
posted by rancher at 4:07 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

That sounds really upsetting.

My cat sometimes brings in partially dead rats, and I like you am very squeamish about trying to finish them off myself in case I just make things worse for them.

I have found that the one method I can use is to scoop them up multiple layers of plastic bag, tie the top together, and then swing the whole bundle hard against a brick wall. I do this a few times just in case, but I'm pretty sure they die on the first whack. It's easier for me because I can't see the rat die, and the layers of plastic prevent any mess and also damp the sound a bit so it isn't horrifying.

(The first time I had to do this I still bawled my eyes out afterwards though.)
posted by lollusc at 4:14 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also figure that if it doesn't die right away, it's probably stunned and unconscious so no longer in pain.
posted by lollusc at 4:15 PM on March 31, 2015

I offered it in one of those threads, so I guess it's been ruled out? But in case not: If the rat seems incapacitated enough to do this without being bitten, he can scoop it into a bucket and put the bucket under a running car's exhaust. I have for reals killed a mouse or two this way, and it takes maybe five or ten seconds to kill a mouse. There is some gasping that's unpleasant to watch.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:49 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

Call the mayor's hotline- 617.635.4500.
posted by momochan at 4:51 PM on March 31, 2015

Seconding Animal Rescue League of Boston. I've called them before about pigeons and sparrows and they have always been very helpful and kind. I'm sure they'd have advice about the rat. Number: (657) 777-2752.
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 4:56 PM on March 31, 2015

I have euthanized a squirrel by scooping them into a box (paralyzed from a high fall), put the box in a garbage bag, and putting the bag around my car exhaust. In 10 minutes they were gone and I never heard any scratching.
posted by nickggully at 5:56 PM on March 31, 2015

My dog morally wounded a squirrel and I couldn't bear to watch him suffer. A very nice guy working on my house at the time put him out of his misery with a whack from a 2x6. We were in the boondocks though, so there was no one else to call.
posted by cecic at 6:13 PM on March 31, 2015

Pay a neighborhood kid $10 to go step on its head. $5 before, $5 after its done. Watch from a distance so you don't have to see any blood and guts.

Paying a neighborhood kid to step on an animal and kill it is an absolutely terrible idea, for too many reasons to list here.
posted by jayder at 6:21 PM on March 31, 2015 [48 favorites]

Scoop it into a garbage bag and then hold the mouth of the bag around a running car's exhaust for a few seconds. Then tie the bag closed.
posted by Ostara at 6:24 PM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

What's more important, your friend's squeamishness or the continuing suffering of the rat? Get a shovel and put it out of its misery already with one or two solid blows.
posted by jayder at 6:24 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

If it is a square mouth shovel, decapitation is probably the most humane method.
posted by GeeEmm at 6:35 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Call a professional. Remember the plague?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:36 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I work with people who work directly with our Mayor. Our Mayor is not your mayor, but I cannot imagine this being effective. Also, do not pay a kid (OMG< WTF?).

If he honestly can't bring himself to do it, he shouldn't try. Trying and failing is terrible.

Rats do carry diseases, and injured dying animals are erratic. I vote for calling an exterminator, Animal Rescue, or non-squeamish neighbour. (I know someone who ended up with lots of booster shots after getting bit on the finger by a rat she was shooing out of the house. Brought in by cat, unharmed and very alive!)

I'm so sorry. Ick.
posted by jrobin276 at 7:46 PM on March 31, 2015

I agree that a shovel is the humane approach, more so than moving it. Failing that I'd call an exterminator. Maybe in cities it is different but around here the police would not treat an injured rat as a priority and our Animal Control does not respond to pests/varmints.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:21 PM on March 31, 2015

Yeah, so this one time I had a mouse caught in a trap and really it didn't seem even hurt, just pinned. But this was after they had pooped on the clean dishes -- like, climbed to the top of a plate held vertically in a dish drainer and pooped on the edge in a feat of acrobatic spite -- that the Mouse Wars had gone somewhat beyond rationality.

Anyway, I took it out to the (dirt) driveway to whomp it with a shovel, and I whomped it really good... which just bounced it out of the trap and it disappeared before I could get a second lick in to finish it off for real.

And then a couple-few days later I was in the kitchen and there was this mouse. I assume it was the same mouse because it was kinda fucked-up and couldn't walk right and kept falling over, and it just sat there on the floor and stared at me. So, finally remembering a thing I'd seen about euthanizing nuisance birds, I gassed it.

Whomping a mouse with a shovel does not always go well, and let me offer you my direct personal assurance that you can still feel absolutely rotten about murine violence gone wrong... it must be 17 or 18 years later now.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:39 PM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your super helpful suggestions! Turns out the rat died on its own. RIP.
posted by désoeuvrée at 11:13 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

Bless its tiny soul. I wonder if it knew how many internet strangers cared.
posted by kinetic at 2:26 AM on April 1, 2015 [6 favorites]

This thread is a testament to what makes America the country it is today!
posted by GeeEmm at 3:50 AM on April 1, 2015

Whew. I'm so glad it died before the friend had to deal. Shovels and boots are too imprecise. Bags and dry ice/car exhaust = a lot of manhandling of the rat and wasted time. I have some experience with this because my horrible housemate was too cheap to buy rat traps and put out tiny mouse traps everywhere. So once I came home at 3 A.M. to a rat still alive. It had a broken back and was dragging itself and La Cheapa's inadequate mousetrap around the kitchen. There's a hammer involved in this dispatch method, but here's the thing: there's also a board. You put the board on top of the entire rat and smack it one with the hammer, right where the head is. One and done, you take it out where it is without a lot of prep time, and you don't have to have good aim or strength or be non-squeamish enough to guillotine a rodent's head off with a shovel blade. You don't look at the poor rat at all. Board and hammer.

Special bonus! Bats you don't kill. You knock them out of the air with a broom and keep the broom on them--gently--while you put a bucket over them. Slide the broom out, slide a file folder--gently, slowly--under the bucket, take the whole thing in the yard, give it a heave. Hum "Born Free" as you watch the liberated bat swoop up in elegant spirals before zipping back into your attic. Repeat in a couple of days.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:14 AM on April 1, 2015

Putting the animal into the freezer, or submitting it to bags of dry ice and car exhaust are among the most nightmarish deaths I can imagine.

Please don't do this to any animal. It is cruel, and inhumane, and painful.

Even if it's 'just' a rat, it deserves better than a drawn out, agonizing death.

I'm glad this animal died on its own, and I would hope that everyone participating in this thread would be brave and humane enough to end a suffering animal's life quickly and decisively, rather than putting it though additional agony because your delicate sensibilities force you to do otherwise.
posted by Seppaku at 8:52 AM on April 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

Since a few people here have said freezing sounds like a nightmare death- I really need to reiterate that if you do your research on this it is in fact considered to be among the nicest ways to go. Since it is known to be one of the least painful ways to go many people choose this as a form of suicide in appropriate climates. THe body goes numb and as the organs shut down the person just gets sleepy and falls asleep. There is no pain. Ironically the body can often start to feel very warm during the process so many people who are in the process of freezing will take their clothes off.

The downside to freezing to death is that if it is not cold enough it can take a while. Also if the ice is mostly near the extremities rather than near the organs that would cause death there can be pain because it's causing frost-bite without freezing the main areas at a good enough rate. Basically if the person can get near a hypothermic state in a short amount of time it is a very nice way to go. I guarantee you that the last half hour of that animals life was way more agonizing dying of whatever causes it suffered than the no pain drowsiness leading into sleep that is freezing.
posted by rancher at 8:44 AM on April 2, 2015

reiterate that if you do your research on this it is in fact considered to be among the nicest ways to go

People do research this for a living in order to establish guidelines for euthanasia of rodents in research programs that minimize their pain and suffering. What is currently believed is that the formation of ice crystals in the tissues of the freezing animal is quite painful, and is not an acceptable means of humane euthanasia.

Compared to a human deliberately ending their own life, a wild animal that is injured is experiencing considerable mental distress and suffering due to pain and confusion. Placing that animal into a container and then into a 4C freezer compounds that distress. From there, how long do you think it takes for that animal's body temperature to drop from 37C? At what point do you think it is rendered insensate? Minutes? That doesn't sound like the 'nicest way to go' to me.
posted by Seppaku at 9:38 AM on April 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I know the issue has been resolved, but an air rifle would make quick work of the rat, with either pellets or bb's, through the head.

Air rifles are designed for small game hunting.

I would not recommend an air pistol, they are not generally powerful enough.
posted by Sprocket at 11:11 AM on April 2, 2015

Here's the AVMA on the topic; page 48 deals with rodents.

But most people facing this situation are not going to have a decapitator within easy access, so I'm sticking with board-and-hammer.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:19 AM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

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