Brookline petition looks to rid town of rat infestation

The petition has over 1,000 signatures in 5 weeks.

A Brookline petition, requesting the town to implement aggressive rodent control measures, has over 1,000 signatures just a few weeks after it was started. George Rizer/Globe Staff

A new petition is urging the Brookline Select Board to take additional steps to fight the town’s rodent crisis.

The petition, written by retired neighbors Fran Perler and Marilyn Rosenbaum, calls for the town to increase staff and approve additional funding for rodent prevention and has accumulated over 1,000 signatures in about 5 weeks. 

“If you don’t have rats in your neighborhood right now, you’ll have them next month or next week,” Perler told Boston.com. “This is something that no individual, no business, no person, can do by themselves. We need a concerted effort with the town and all the parties. It’s a public health issue [and] it’s a quality of life issue.”


Rodent infestation complaints to the town’s public works and health departments have increased by over 300% since 2019, likely due to an influx of food waste from people staying at home during the pandemic.

Perler and Rosenbaum started their effort walking the streets of Brookline, putting up flyers, and asking for signatures. Many of the people they spoke to didn’t blink twice before signing the petition. 

“95 percent of the people I talked to didn’t need any information,” Perler said. “They said please let me sign.”


Brookline officials have already taken several steps to mitigate the issue, but petition signers are asking for more.

In October 2022, Brookline’s public works and health department announced the Rodent Control Action Plan, or RCAP, to “effectively respond to rodent activity in Brookline.” The town reallocated $200,000 in federal COVID testing funding to pay for the first six months of the plan, financing the plan’s short-term goals.

These goals include contracting the services of pest control specialists, increasing waste receptacles, cooperating with food safety consultants, and providing resources for residents to take steps to mitigate infestations. Many of the steps outlined in RCAP have seen success in neighboring cities such as Somerville and Cambridge.


A month later, a budget proposal at a Brookline town meeting acknowledged RCAP as a welcomed first step to fight the rodent problem, but pushed for further funding and stricter regulations in the future. However, because Brookline lacked the funds to approve the proposal, it was amended as a resolution, pushing the additional requests out of the town’s 2023 budget.

Using the momentum from the proposal and RCAP, Perler and Rosenbaum met with businesses, town meeting attendees, and various town officials to form their petition.

“In the end, the [budget proposal] opened up the ability to really discuss and bring the attention of the rat crisis to the powers that be,” Perler said. 

The petition calls for the town of Brookline to fully fund the RCAP beyond the first six months as well as take many of the steps outlined in the resolution. It requests staff increases to the health and public works departments, restrictions on outdoor dining and construction projects, and an upheaval of how the town deals with waste and waste overflow.

While these aggressive steps will likely alleviate some of the town’s rodent concerns, it is unclear whether the RCAP will see continued funding or if the resolution will be fully implemented into Brookline’s 2024 budget. 


“Our department of public health has put together a plan, and we have worked to budget accordingly,” Heather Hamilton, chair of Brookline’s Select Board told Boston.com. “I know some people are frustrated with that plan, and they want to see more done, but we have to balance against all the other priorities that we have…if we are going to allocate more resources to that, where does the money come from?”

Currently, Brookline provides resources like the town’s rodent issue request form and information for residents dealing with rodent infestations. But purchasing waste receptacles, hiring additional staff, and implementing rat birth control — measures proposed in the petition — could be costly and unbalance the town’s already small budget.

Perler and Rosenbaum intend to deliver the petition to the Select Board next Friday, hoping to speak about the issue during the board’s next meeting.

“For us, [we] understand [the Select Board] knows about it, but will they do something about it, will they give it enough priority to fund it?” Perler said. “I don’t want to think about what happens if they don’t.”


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