New York City, New York
By Mike Segar
On a hot and humid night in late July on New York City’s lower East side, I find Richard Reynolds and a small group of dog enthusiasts standing beneath the pale-yellow glow of the street lights. The sound of dogs barking emanates from inside cars parked near the apartment buildings.
This is the staging ground for a group of enthusiasts named The Ryders Alley Trencher-fed Society, or R.A.T.S. The name comes from a notoriously rat-infested street in Lower Manhattan, where this group and their dogs (mostly terriers) have one mission: to hunt down and kill rats, something I was told they have been doing for about 15 years.
A few more members of the group emerge from the shadows with their dogs. As they prepare for the hunt, Reynolds, a business consultant from New Jersey and the leader of the pack, tells me of his love for dogs. He owns at least seven, has bred terriers, judges dog shows, and is involved in just about all aspects of raising and training dogs for hunting.
“All of the folks you see here are dog nuts,” he says.
New York City is notorious for its huge rat population and some say there are more rats here than people. In 2014, the city budgeted $611,000 to target the problem. R.A.T.S., however, is not affiliated with the city or any official agency.
“They cooperate with us and we with them and over the years we have had a mostly cordial relationship, but we are not working for anyone here except the dogs,” Reynolds says.