A far cry from the noble European hunts of yore, rat hunting as a sport for dogs is becoming a 'thing' in New York. Members of the Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society – RATS – meet at night and sic their dog companions on vermin scurrying about in the night.
AP Photo/Craig Ruttle
Bodies tense and noses twitching, the dogs sniff the fertile hunting ground before them: a lower Manhattan alley, grimy, dim, and perfect for rats. With a terse command – "Now!" – the chase is on.
Circling, bounding over, and pawing at a mound of garbage bags, the four dogs quickly have rodents on the run.
"Come on ... I mean, 'Tally ho!'" says one of their owners, Susan Friedenberg. In a whirl of barks, pants, and wagging tails, dogs tunnel among the bags and bolt down the alley as their quarry tries to scurry away.
Within five minutes, the city has two fewer rats.
In a scrappy, streetwise cousin of mannerly countryside fox hunts, on terrain far from the European farms and fields where many of the dogs' ancestors were bred to scramble after vermin and foxes, their masters sport trash-poking sticks instead of riding crops and say it's just as viable an exercise for the animals' centuries-old skills.
"It's about maintaining the breed type through actual work," says Richard Reynolds, a New Jersey-based business analyst and longtime dog breeder who might be considered the group's organizer – if it would accept being called organized.
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