Rats! Roadside display riles neighbors
WESTPORT — The rat count outside Roger Chandanais' house at 96 Charlotte White Road was up to three Monday morning.
Three corpses — two dating back to last Friday, one fresh from the trap over the weekend — dangled out toward the roadway from a bent steel pole beneath Mr. Chandanais' orange sign that reads "Large Rats — Caution — Crossing."
"I find that disgusting — other neighbors do too," said a man who called the newspaper Friday and declined to leave his name.
"This has been going on for a long time and nobody does a thing about it." The man said Town Hall has been called and the Police Department too, to no avail.
"Nobody does anything about it — unbelievable." He said it us unhealthy and looks awful. "This should not be allowed."
"I agree, people should be disgusted — they should complain," Mr. Chandanais said later. "I'm disgusted too."
That's the point of his rat display, Mr. Chandanais said.
"We've got a real rat problem in Westport and the town doesn't care."
He said he, too, has complained to the town and police.
"They don't want to hear about it— they say we don't have a rat problem."
Mr. Chandanais said the sign, and the rat corpses swinging in the breeze, are his way of calling attention to the situation. He hopes to add a rat crosswalk soon.
Jim Walsh, agent for the Board of Health, said he is well aware of the situation, having fielded complaints both about Mr. Chandanais' rat display and from Mr. Chandanais about rats in general.
"As long as they aren't out so long that they start to smell and become a health problem, there is not a lot that we can do," Mr. Walsh said. "It's not a lot different from somebody hanging out a deer that he has shot."
"If it is a health issue, we can ask him to take the rats down, but we can't act on offended sensibilities," Mr. Walsh said. "Westport doesn't have a pretty yards bylaw like some other towns." This, he adds, "Is Roger's way of getting a point across … and showing off his hunting prowess."
As for Mr. Chandanais' rat concerns — "there are rats everywhere." He said there are several places in that part of town where livestock is kept, and livestock feed often attracts rats.
Not only has Westport done nothing about rats, Mr. Chandanais said, but the town is partly to blame for the problem.
He said he used to have a half-dozen cats, some his own, some strays. They were good mouse and rat killers, he said, until the town insisted that he get them neutered.
"Now they just lie on the porch, fat and lazy — won't chase a rat if it walks right by in front of them … Westport wants to get rid of all these cats, neuter them, you're going to have a rat problem."
He thinks the rats in his neighborhood settled in back when there was a farm next door — "lots of food" — and from a house nearby where trash has been allowed to pile up.
He complained to the Board of Selectmen awhile back and brought photos of the neighbor's trash piles.
"They (rats) are living in the piles of trash (at that nearby house) and you can see them at night coming across my driveway" to our house.
The farm is long gone but the rats remain. He said he sees them constantly near the house, out by his rabbit hutches, all over. "They are big and they are well-educated, hard to catch." He catches his mostly with traps.
A former fisherman and deep sea diver, Mr. Chandanais is well-known for the welding he does out back at Roger's Welding and Truck and Trailer Repair Service — fanciful creations, mobile meat smokers, a seven-foot-tall Square Pants Sponge Bob, and much more. He once built himself a salvage vessel named Little Newt that he used to pull up a 16-foot, 16,000 pound bronze propeller from a World War II era wreck off Martha's Vineyard.