City works to keep residents rat-free

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — Although some residents are reportedly still having problems with rats — an issue that flared briefly last summer — Mayor Joseph Kuspa said “the vast majority” of residents are not dealing with rodents.

“Recent interest has increased,” Kuspa said of televised claims. “But by no means is there a major issue in the city.”

Kuspa said that residential pockets near Fort Street may still invite rodent nesting — particularly near vacant properties — that spiked last year during a Michigan Department of Transportation reconstruction project that tore up the road for months. Kuspa said his own home wasn’t immune to an increased rodent population that had been stirred up, and the project sparked a variety of issues beyond the normal traffic slowdown.

A population of seagulls had taken over a vacant car dealership and seemed ready to create a public health hazard until the city and sharpshooters shooed the birds away.

The project also sent a sizable population of rats scurrying from the boulevard in search of new nesting grounds. Backyard gardens, trash collection sites and alleys invited rodent residency, and the city did what it could to educate homeowners on how to identify and eliminate possible nesting areas.

“The vast majority of residents do maintain their property and do not encourage nesting,” Kuspa said. The problem lay with the few properties that weren’t maintained, particularly unoccupied homes.

Last year the city prepared an informational pamphlet for residents that included contact information for animal control and the municipal ordinance officer along with tips on identifying and eliminating potential nests.

For most residents the storm passed, Kuspa said, but said the city has limited authority over unoccupied or abandoned homes.

“In the public spaces, alley ways, we have a program to address that,” Kuspa said. The city contracts with pest removal services when necessary, and municipal assistance may be available if residents remain at risk because of issues near their home.

“If they’ve done what they can in their own yard but are experiencing something from an adjacent yard, they should let us know,” Kuspa said. Through its ordinance officer the city can contact the property owner and take steps to control the problem. There are pest control companies which offer free consultations, to include assessing if the problem is of only one or two rodents passing through or of actual nesting.

Twice in recent months residents have contacted local television reporters — Kuspa said that city officials had not heard from the same citizens — with claims that the problem is as bad or worse than before. Kuspa told reporters that the city welcomed information on problem areas and hoped to continue educating residents and minimizing any remaining issues.

“I understand that for those experience the problem it’s a major problem,” Kuspa said. Residents should contact animal control at 734-246-1328 or go to for more information.

(James Mitchell can be reached at