I believe rats should be humanely destroyed whenever possible. Rats; like cats, dogs, and horses are non-native species on the continent of North America. The sad reality is that pets and wildlife don't mix well.
Very good comments about not allowing dogs to run. Very good point about vaccines. However, it would be in all of our best interests if all pet owners vaccinated their animals annually until that is sorted out.
First site that popped up in a search for rats + cats + dogs + wildlife-
Cat owners often tell of a dead bird, mouse, or lizard "present" left on the welcome mat or, worse, on the living room rug. Domestic cats have been estimated to kill more than a billion small mammals and hundreds of millions of birds each year. Although the death toll is staggering, it is not surprising when you consider that there are 40 million pet cats allowed to roam free, and millions of additional stray cats.
Contrary to popular belief, making sure that pets are well fed will not solve the problem. Even well fed cats and dogs continue to hunt. In one study, cats eating their favorite food were presented with a small, live rat. All the cats stopped eating just long enough to kill the rat, then returned to the food.
Putting bells on cats' collars will also not solve the problem. Some cats learn to stalk prey without ringing the bell. In other cases, the bell rings too late to warn the prey, or the prey don't consider a ringing bell to be a threat. A study in Great Britain found that cats with bells actually killed slightly more animals, on average, than cats without bells.
Although dogs are probably less successful hunters than cats, a dog on an unsuccessful hunt can still harm wildlife. Animals chased by dogs spend their energy on escaping. Being chased by a dog, especially for young or pregnant animals, might mean the difference between having and not having the energy to survive.
excerpt from above-
Distemper Identified as Cause of Skunk Deaths in Shasta County
May 15, 2008
Canine distemper, one of the most serious viral diseases affecting dogs, appears to have caused the deaths in recent months of a large number of skunks, foxes and raccoons in Northern California, report veterinary scientists at the University of California, Davis.
USGS and a network of partners across the country work on documenting wildlife mortality events in order to provide timely and accurate information on locations, species and causes of death. This information was updated on May 16, 2008 on the USGS National Wildlife Health Center web page, New and Ongoing Wildlife Mortality Events Nationwide. See below link if interested.
We don't hate pets. We have 1 rat, 6 indoor only cats, 2 house dogs that are always on leashes when they leave our home, and are now up to four horses. With the exception of the rat which was purchased at a pet shop and one cat that was not feral that we vetted and kept after it ended up in our traps, all of our animals were acquired as adults from local humane societies and that certainly does include the horses too. People neglect, abuse, and abandon them too.
Where I live we have leash laws for cats just as we do for dogs. Cats and dogs are specifically exempted from protection under the wildlife code and our DNR has no regulation protecting cats or dogs as they are not considered wildlife. I don't see any further attempts to re-classify cats as wildlife being successful. Our town provides live traps to homeowners free of charge and dispatches an animal control officer to remove ferals and strays from our properties once they are trapped.
Interesting read here about how US Military Installations reduce feral and stray cat populations as well as why-
For rat control, we currently use the same devices being used by our local Base. In fact it was military personnel who first introduced us to the product. Most humane way to destroy rats that I have ever found.