LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Pest control and public health experts are calling on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a public health emergency over what they say is a sharp rise in the state’s rodent population.

“California is being overrun by rodents – and without immediate emergency action by state and local government, we face significant economic costs and risk a public health crisis,” said Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California, at a news conference Tuesday at City Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

DeMaio highlighted the findings of the group’s new report which cited an increase in the state’s homeless population, along with elimination of the most effective pest control tools, as “significant” factors on the ongoing crisis.

The study surveyed nearly two dozen private pest control companies that operate throughout California and found all of them reported that Rat Service Requests were up as much as 60% in the last 12 months. Not a single company reported that service requests were down or in line with
the previous year, according to the report.

Pest control professionals and sanitation workers told the survey team they observed an “alarming increase” in Norway rats moving around during the day, behavior that experts described as “highly abnormal”.

A dead Norway rat in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo by UC ANR)

But despite some studies linking rodent activity to climate change, the report says environmental factors are not to blame for the state’s rat increase. Instead, the issue is “directly related” a spike in the homeless population and the elimination of effective rodent control methods under legislation such as AB 1788, which would ban the use of ban the “second generation” category of anticoagulant rodenticides in California.

The backers of that bill claim the rodenticides are harming the environment and are killing innocent wildlife.

Rodent infestations, the study adds, are also fueling an increase in reported cases of dangerous diseases such as typhus, including an outbreak at City Hall earlier this year.

“Thank you for coming out today to the City of Angels, but unfortunately it has become the ‘City of Rats'”, said Konstantinos Roditis, former candidate for California State Controller, and Vice Chairman of Reform California. “The decision here at City Hall and in Sacramento is gonna make the problems even worse.”

“If we don’t clean up this mess, our citizens are going to start contracting diseases that are dangerous,” DeMaio added.

The report also outlines several recommendations for remediation from the expert panel, including a public health emergency declaration by the governor and requiring local governments to conduct immediate assessments of the rodent situation.

Click here to read the full report.

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