GIANT rats the size of “small ponies” are invading homes and terrorising families on a residential street, a horrified witness claims.
The pesky rodents are said to be racing across clothes lines, jumping out from under sofas and running riot in gangs of up to 30 on a quiet street in Sunderland.
A concerned resident of Donnison Street has now taken to capturing the creatures in a wheelie bin before shooting them dead with an air gun.
The rodents are understood to have appeared in huge numbers as a result of a sewage problem – which has given them access to the street via drains.
Jimmy Smart, 70, who has lived on the street for 25 years, said: “I am catching two or three rats a day, and we’ve seen six at a time before getting in bins.
“They will run across the washing lines and up into the cherry trees to eat the cherries. It’s crazy.”
I even saw one running recently which looked like a small pony
Shocked Jimmy added: “They have been appearing over the past six months or so. They keep getting bigger, they are like cheshire cats.
“I even saw one running recently which looked like a small pony.”
Weary locals have resorted to their own measures to stop the rodent surge.
Retired scrapyard worker Jim has even laid his own traps out in his back garden to catch the rats.
And another neighbour uses a spare wheelie-bin which the rodents climb into via a hole in the lid, before shooting them dead with an air pistol.
He said: “I’ve never known anything like this before.
“We are seeing them as big as ever. We used to be able to host things in the garden such as parties – but we wouldn’t anymore”.
Jim’s next door neighbour Paul Reay, 63, spoke of having the pesky rats in his house recently, and described the shocking moment he saw one the size of his arm.
Paul said: “I went outside and hadn’t shut the door properly, and when I came back in I sat down in my chair watching the television.
“I heard something and thought, ‘What was that?’ I thought I had just imagined it.
“I lifted up the settee and underneath was a rat the size of my arm.”
Paul’s neighbour Michael even said he feared for his two children’s safety when they play outside in the street.
He added: “I see them all the time running everywhere, the most I’ve seen at one time is between 15 and 20.”
I lifted up the settee and underneath was a rat the size of my arm
Councillor Michael Mordey, Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council and Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said that environmental health officers had visited the street earlier this week after complaints from residents.
He said: “Having been made aware of this issue, environmental health officers visited the street on Monday afternoon and identified a number of faults in the sewer network.
“These provide a direct route for rodents from the sewer to access the surface and have been determined as the most likely cause of the significant rat activity in the area.
“The faults have been reported to Northumbrian Water Limited for their attention.”
A spokesperson from Northumbrian Water said: “We understand how unpleasant rodent issues can be.
“This issue was raised with us this week by Sunderland City Council.
“One of our Technical Support Advisors will be attending the site tomorrow to carry out a full inspection.
“This will include a rodent baiting programme and cameras in place to establish whether there is an issue inside of the sewer network in the area.
They added: “We are only responsible for issues with rodents in our sewer networks and if we do find an issue relating to our pipes then we will take appropriate action and get the situation resolved.
“To ensure that the issue is fully resolved we’re working closely with the local authority and environmental health who are also carrying out enquiries in the local area.”