Poison traps for rats and other rodents around campus have become the subject of much notoriety and controversy.
Lindsay Sheppard, president of Ontario Public Interest Research Group, said there are dozens of poison traps scattered all over the University of Windsor grounds, especially around residence buildings.
“I actually had no idea about them until a woman contacted Jim (Davis) at OPIRG and expressed her displeasure with what is going on. She told him the story about a cat … which had supposedly eaten poison from one of the traps on campus, got sick and died. She got outraged and this was brought up in one of the meetings,” said Sheppard.
Windsor Animal Action Group, which is a part of OPIRG, has tried contacting campus Facility Services to seek answers, but so far has received no response.
According to Holly Ward, University of Windsor’s chief communication officer, the school has contracts with a few pest control companies that are used in a variety of locations across campus. She emphasized that pest control is a normal part of building maintenance plan for any property.
Ward is of the view that pest control companies abide by the best practices in the heavily regulated industry. “The methods used to control pests are species-specific, meaning there is minimal risk of any animals other than small rodents coming in contact with the secured traps.”
Bob’s Animal Removal is one of the companies that the University of Windsor has contracted to keep the premises free from animals.
Ted Foreman, owner of Bob’s Animal removal, who is currently facing animal abuse charges for allegedly tying down an injured pigeon for owl bait, endorses Ward’s views and believes that if the work is done properly, it is legal. “The boxes that you have around the university are made for mice and rats. They are not made for the squirrels or any other animals to get into. No metal traps are big enough for squirrels.”
According to Kenneth Montville, college campaign assistant of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, these traps are indiscriminate and kill any animals that can get inside them, including squirrels, birds and chipmunks. “Another problem with traps like these is that the animals don’t die immediately. They wander off somewhere else and then they die there. If these animals are eaten by a dog or cat, those animals will also get poisoned.”
Foreman’s company has caught three skunks and a raccoon from campus grounds in the last month. All the captured animals were euthanized as Foreman believed them to be infected.
Melanie Coulter, executive director of Windsor-Essex County Humane Society, said there are situations where some animals may have to be removed or excluded for human or animal health reasons. However, she said steps should be taken to address the factors that are drawing wildlife to the area and lethal options should be considered a last resort. “An effort should also be made to use the most humane methods possible.”
Animal rights groups also believe that killing or euthanizing animals is futile and does not deliver results. “The only way to keep rodents out is to rodent-proof the building. Putting them off is just a total waste of time. The funny thing is that lethal methods do not work in the long run. They actually cause the population to increase. The pet control contractors will never admit this because this business is their bread and butter,” said Montville.
Considering the situation and lack of response from Facility Services, students have expressed their disappointment with university administration. “In my pursuit of trying to figure out who is in charge of what, who is making what decisions, I realized that they are very hush-hush about it. It is like a secret society,” said Sheppard.
“It is just a reflection of how university operates in general. If nobody asks questions, they don’t have to care about it,” added Sheppard.