Sunday, August 28, 2016

New product designed to reduce rodent populations without using poison gets FDA approval

The use of home and garden chemicals is the bane of many a pet lover's existence, especially pet sitters and dog walkers who frequently encounter yards freshly treated with pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. There are dangers that these chemicals pose to the health of our companion animals. Admittedly, during the warm months here in Michigan, I'm constantly vigilant as I make my way out with my canine charges, scanning for tip-offs like the tell-tale spike tags on the edge of lawns, not to mention the overwhelming odor. I imagine I look like I'm playing hopscotch when avoiding these areas. 

But these aren't the only chemical dangers that pets face while in the great outdoors. As you might recall from a piece I'd written for MLive in 2012, rodenticides pose a significant risk, and one dog's encounter after ingesting a common product meant to kill mice was chronicled. 

We do of course worry about pets ingesting things like this, as they can make them sick, or in some cases, kill them. Some pets wolf things down (yes, even mouse and rat poison) indiscriminately, even if we don't see them as being necessarily appetizing. Other pets ingest products like this accidentally. 

The problem is, Daphne—a black Labrador in the story— didn't consume the product directly. It was deduced that she likely did so as a result of secondhand poisoning: catching and then eating a mouse that ingested the chemical elsewhere and made its way to her yard. 

A safer solution

Daphne required hospitalization and an ongoing recovery, narrowly surviving the harrowing encounter, but one biotech company in Arizona is hoping to make incidents like that a thing of the past. Flagstaff-based Senestech received approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a formula that can control rat populations more safely and humanely. And the way it works gets to the core of what drives the populations, and is likely just the beginning of something bigger.

"ContraPest has the ability to revolutionize how we control rodent pest populations in the United States by focusing on the root cause of the problem—reproduction," Loretta Mayer, CEO of SenesTech said in a press release

Both sexes of rats are targeted; females experience egg loss while sperm development is impaired in males. ContraPest is a palatable liquid—and according to a test run in New York City, it is one that rats find appealing—delivered via proprietary, tamper proof bait stations. In fact, the rodents love it so much, they come back for more. That's a good thing, considering that sustained consumption of the product means an efficacy rate of the product that's optimal, resulting in rats that can't reproduce.
flickr photo by jans canon

Another attractive quality of the product— which has two active ingredients, one derived from plants, the other chemically based—is that it breaks down into inactive ingredients when it has contact with water or soil, so no worry of contamination, unlike its toxic predecessors.

Additionally, ContraPest was created to not only be a more humane to the populations it's designed to control, but safe for those it's not. Ditto for humans (including those handling the product and bait stations)—even children—and yes, pets.

"Municipalities are perpetually faced with the constant harm caused by rodent overpopulation, including the transmission of diseases, damage to public infrastructure, as well as destruction and contamination of food supplies," added Mayer.

"ContraPest is more humane, less harmful to the environment, and more effective in providing a sustainable solution to rodent pest infestations than traditional lethal methods, such as rodenticides, which contain lethal chemicals that can be toxic to humans and other animals."

Historically, trying to deal with rodent populations has proven to be challenging, due in large part that killing rodents isn't a sustainable solution. But inhibiting the animal's fertility is. 

Rodent control and beyond 

Because the dosage needed to affect rats has been formulated for their size, larger animals won't see any effects. That said, the company is on track to create a formula that is designed for mice.

You might find another facet of this technology to be interesting: Mayer noted that the company is also researching how it could be put to use in feral populations of cats and dogs, something that could be another viable tool in addressing pet overpopulation and homelessness. Alternative solutions to those issues that go beyond surgical neutering, like Esterisol and Zeuterin are being explored but will take time to thoroughly vet and put into place.

Click here to learn more about ContraPest.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. This is long overdue! I am so glad a humane method has FINALLY ARRIVED! Many people could care less about poisoning rats & mice, but I have always found it cruel. I have always suspected that many of my feral cats in my colonies have died due to them ingesting mice & rats that had consumed poison & as we know, poison for one equals poison for all.

    It is interesting about the fact that further down the road there might be a birth control for cats & dogs. I still believe they will need to be surgically sterilized, but this could be extremely helpful while Rescue people (like myself) are targeting a feral colony for TNR. Part of the issue w/ colonies, is that they get pregnant quickly & gestational for such a short time, that it is really hard to get ahead of all the births & as we all know, there are just not enough resources to get all the kitten's fostered & adopted & it just kills rescue's to know they will have to spend the rest of their lives on the hard streets! Sadly, there are not the resources to do "mass cat colony of trappings for TNR" there just aren't enough people that do recovery, even if enough people could be found to help with all the trapping & transporting to the clinic.

    I do however, have some major concerns about what could possibly be long range health issue's with the cats consuming it. There used to be a product on the market that was targeted for feral cats and I had bought some. It was "supposedly safe" I even spoke on the phone to the Veterinarian that was license to prescribe this. I later on found out that there were a good amount of people not advocating this product. Well, it was a little to late that I found out about this.

    I was DESPERATE to get several colonies that were exploding population wise under control as I was working to spay/neuter, but knew I could never get ahead of all the pregnancies otherwise. The Vet sounded very convincing! I do believe I lost several cats because of it, but it did somewhat work & did help from several population explosions.

    I do feel really bad & have regrets though. I keep trying to tell myself that I was doing what I thought was safe & ok, at that time.

    I just pray that when they come out with this product, that it is not going to cause any harm.

    I also am concerned about when they do the testing on test subject's. That always bothers me, because you know they do things like purposely overdose test subjects & make them injest ridiculous amounts that they would never normally injest, putting their health at risk. I understand they have to test it before they go to market with it, but the testing they do is highly unethical on so many levels, it's not just testing, it becomes abusive! Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine knows these issue well! I would really feel much better if they could somehow be involved in this, then I could feel assured that abusive test studies would NOT happen! I just know what goes on behind closed doors in medical labs all over this country of ours & all over this world. Needles abuse & suffering goes on, even when advanced non-animal testing is & has been available for quote sometime. We can't ignore the suffering of animals.


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