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January 18, 2012

Oh Rats

Dear Animal Lovers:

Martin Austermuhle of writes, below, to quarrel with Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s problems with DC’s house vermin protection law, which I wrote about in the last issue of themail. Cuccinelli reads the DC law as it is written He believes that it covers some kinds of rats and mice, and requires that they be live-trapped and relocated, the same as it requires for raccoons, squirrels, bats, snakes, and other species.

Austermuhle claims that the law doesn’t cover mice and rats. That's how Councilmember Mary Cheh explained it when she introduced it, and how I understood it. But read the article that I quoted in the last issue ( Only some types of rats and mice — “commensal rodents,” species that commonly share living quarters and food with humans — are exempted, and can be legally exterminated. Cuccinelli's communications director is quoted as saying, “While certain commensal rodents are exempted from the law, the rice rat and the deer mouse are species that wildlife control experts note are within the District that are NOT defined as commensal rodents, so they would appear not to be exempt from the law.” An exterminator would have to identify which species of rats and mice were in a house before he determined whether he could kill them or had to live-trap and relocate them, and if he identified rice rats or deer mice, he could not use poison or fatal traps. They and other household pests — again, such as raccoons, squirrels, bats, snakes, etc. — would have to be relocated as intact family groups, either released into the wild or given to licensed wildlife rehabilitators.

WTOP’s Mark Segraves has written a “fact check” of Cuccinelli’s claims (, but the “fact check” just discounts Cuccinelli’s plain reading of the law and accepts at face value the claims of the original sponsors of the law — the Washington Humane Society (which drafted the law for Cheh); City Wildlife (which is seeking DC funds to establish a wildlife rehabilitation center); and John Hadidian, who runs a for-profit pest control company as a subsidiary of the Humane Society. The Cheh law privileges Hadidian’s company and its methods, and disadvantages all of his competitors, so Hadidian naturally thinks the law is a good one.

Segraves argues that while the Cheh bill says that only commensal rodents are exempted from the law, the law won’t be enforced against homeowners or pest control companies who attempt to exterminate any mice or rats because “commensal” isn’t defined in DC law and the current director of the District’s Department of the Environment, Christophe Tulou, says he won’t distinguish among types of rats. For me, that’s putting too much faith and trust in the good sense of DC government. If the government says, “Don’t worry about the way the law is actually written, we won’t enforce it that way,” I wouldn’t believe it for a minute. The absence of a definition in the law worries me; it doesn’t reassure me. This and other shortcomings in the law were brought to the attention of councilmembers when they were considering the bill, and they passed it anyway. They’re not accidental oversights; they’re traps lying in wait for residents.

Gary Imhoff


Harry Thomas
Robert Marshall,

I am disappointed and disgusted by what Thomas did. He has admitted that he robbed little children. The fact that he was willing to steal from underprivileged children keeps one from feeling any sympathy for him at all.

However, I don't believe that he thought up and implemented this scheme on his own. Who did and who else may have benefited will probably remain hidden from the public forever. Consequently, these individuals will most likely go unpunished. The brazenness of this scheme was probably due to a combination of Thomas' ignorance and naivete.

The fact that he was willing to steal from underprivileged children keeps one from feeling any sympathy for him at all. Question: has there been any talk of making the victims (the children) whole by ensuring that they receive the benefits that Thomas stole from them?


Statehood Road Show Is a Return to Marion Barry’s Tactics
Bryce A. Suderow,

Friday's DC Examiner features an article on the DC council's plan to visit all fifty states this election year to lobby for statehood (Liz Farmer, "DC to Spend Thousands on Statehood Road Show," Who said there's nothing new under the sun?

Back in the good old days, whenever he got caught breaking the law Marion Barry always played the race card, attacking the plantation masters on the Hill for denying DC statehood. His idea was to divert attention from his wrongdoing, and he usually succeeded. With half the city council, the chairman of the council, and the mayor under investigation, it looks like they're trying to divert attention in the old Barry style.

The question is: will the DC voters let them get away with it this time?


Rats in Virginia?
Martin Austermuhle,,

I recently wrote about Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's comments about the District's wildlife protection laws ( Needless to say, Cuccinelli is wrong — rats and mice are explicitly exempted under the provisions of the law.


DC Rat Patrol
Joseph R Poisso,

Gary, I think that DC law requiring pest control folks to catch and release is a wonderful, humane idea. If I were a pest control person working in DC, I would follow it to the letter: get with my fellow controllers, collect every rat, raccoon, squirrel, and for that matter every roach, termite, and fire ant colony within reach then humanely release them as near as possible to the property of the responsible politicians, to say nothing of the kook activists who support this law. Incidentally, a generous supply to the Occupy DC locations could produce positive odoriferous changes.



Virgin Hall: The Culture of Women in the US Pre- and Post Roe v. Wade, January 24
Patricia Bitondo,

At a luncheon at the National Women’s Democratic Club, Janet Taliaferro, WNDC member, will read from and discuss her novel Virgin Hall, the story of four women college friends from the “silent generation” who bridged a culture their mothers had discovered. At that time many went to college, only to hang their framed diplomas in the family kitchen. These four women lived the bridge into the new culture which came of age after Roe v. Wade and the pill. The main character, Sheila O’Connor, Brooklyn born and convent educated, leaves the east coast for her freshman year at Southern Methodist University. She becomes the victim of incest and pregnancy from a rape, and her college suite mates are drawn into this trauma.

The program is cosponsored by Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington. PPMW President and CEO Laura Meyers will be on the stage with Janet to discuss the culture for women since Roe and the ongoing abortion fight. It is part of a celebration of the 39th anniversary of the passage of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973.

Janet Taliaferro is a novelist, writer, and poet, a graduate of Southern Methodist University with a Master’s from the University of Central Oklahoma. She had a long career in Democratic politics and has managed several campaigns. She is a past president of Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma, and past board member of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington. She has been a leader in the Civil Rights movement. A book sale and signing will follow the program. The National Women’s Democratic Club is at 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. The bar for the luncheon opens at 11:30 a.m.; lunch is at 12:15 p.m.; and the lecture, presentation, and question and answer period will be from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. The cost for members is $25, for nonmembers is $30, and it is $10 for the lecture only. For reservations, call 232-7363 or E-mail


One City Summit, February 11
Vincent C. Gray,

I invite all DC residents to join me on Saturday, February 11, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for the “One City Summit” — a frank and open conversation about what needs to be done to create Washington, DC, as One City. At the event, you will have the opportunity to learn about current efforts to grow our economy, improve our schools, create more jobs, and other initiatives underway to move our city forward; discuss some of the biggest challenges that prevent Washington from becoming truly One City; share your views in small group discussions and listen to neighbors from every part of the District; vote on specific priorities for action in the coming year; and identify ways you can be more involved in future efforts to create a more unified city that works for everyone.

Along with other top city officials, I will be present all day long to listen to your concerns and hear your ideas. A free lunch will be served to everyone who attends. One City is not just a logo or a slogan. It is the recognition that all District residents, no matter their differences, are bound together by a common destiny and a shared desire to make the city even better for the people who live here. Regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ward, or neighborhood, we all want a vibrant, sustainable city, where all residents have an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, where every neighborhood is safe, where every student goes to a good school, where every tax dollar is spent wisely on a government that works, and where citizens’ voices really count.

In order to create such a city, we need your help. The One City Summit will offer residents from all parts of the District the chance to talk together, learn from each other, and help find solutions to the challenges we face. It will help Washington, DC, become a more livable, vibrant, and inclusive city for everyone. Join a thousand of your fellow District residents at this informative, interactive, high tech meeting to help identify priorities for the future. I encourage you to register today at or by calling 709-5132. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to let your voice be heard. I look forward to seeing you on February 11.


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