By now, you may have heard that health officials have reported a surge in the rat population around an Occupy D.C. camp in the District.
You may have also heard that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has been rather vocal about the vermin issue, using the infestation to draw attention to a new animal control law passed by the District. Cuccinelli (R) and other critics have claimed the law could be read to interpret that the rats cannot be exterminated, but would need to be taken to sanctuaries 25 miles from the nation’s capital.
The issue has been a hit this week on conservative talk shows, and on Friday, an outspoken Republican lawmaker in Maryland chimed in, calling the District’s law “animal rights on steroids,” and said he was introducing a bill to prevent the District from “illegally trafficking” in rats to Maryland.
“If you want to keep them alive, and your city council voted for that, you keep them in Washington,” said Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore County). “Washington’s a 10-square-mile city. If you take them 25 miles, then they are coming into Maryland or Virginia.”
For their part, District officials contend the new law has been blown wildly out of proportion and that no rats will be dumped in Maryland or Virginia.
But that didn’t stop McDonough, who is better known as a chief opponent of the state’s Dream Act and who routinely focuses on illegal immigration. McDonough landed a half-dozen appearances on radio and television outlets nationwide Friday, saying he was on the right side of public health issue that the District should not make light of.
“I’ve had a number of interviews around the country, people are not questioning what I’m doing, they’re more shocked at what the D.C. council and mayor are doing,” McDonough said. “This is something alien to America. I’ve never gotten a phone call asking me to protect a rat, but I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls that we have rat infestations, and can you take care of it.”
“This is a public health issue, I mean we can have fun with it, but this seriously is a public health issue … it goes all the way back to the bubonic plague.”
And those ‘Occupy’ rats?
“They’re a good example of why ...we need a law in Maryland or at least pay attention and be aware that we have to protect our state,” McDonough said, “Washington D.C. has the seventh largest rat population in the country, a rat per human, about 1 million rats. Baltimore city has the 6th largest … we have enough.”
McDonough did not elaborate on the source of his rat statistics.
Of note, no lawmakers from Montgomery or Prince George’s counties, which actually border the District, have seemed at all concerned.
McDonough said he has asked Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler for an opinion on D.C.’s law, and whether interstate rat dumping could be of any real concern. If Gansler responds, we’ll let you know.