Preventing Rat Infestation is a Community Effort

Norway RatRats are an unpleasant nuisance that affect all urban areas. Inviting living conditions in cities allow rats to thrive. Like all animals, rats need food, water and shelter. The more resources rats have, the more likely they are to have bigger and more frequent litters. A common misconception is that only vacant properties attract rats; in actuality, well-maintained properties are the ones that offer the food, water and shelter rats seek.

Rodent SIGHTINGS

A rat sighting is rarely an isolated incident. If you see a rat, there are likely more in the area. Rat prevention efforts are most successful when they are implemented community-wide.

Rat sightings can be reported online at Let Us Help. When contacting the Health Department regarding a rat sighting, the following is needed to conduct an effective investigation:

  • Your name.
  • Your phone number.
  • Your address
  • Address of the sighting.

Rodent Abatement Actions & Plans by the City

The City has provided increased funding for nuisance animal abatement and control, and so far in 2022 also taken concrete actions to explore how to disrupt the rodent reproductive cycle, the possible involvement of a pest control company, and to research advanced trapping tools.

We recommend you visit these pages to learn more:

    Rat Prevention

   Rat Prevention FAQ

Key Actions Taken Prior to 2022:

  • Creation of rodent control program workgroup.
  • Allocation of additional funding for pest control services.
  • Issued violations and citations for non-contained refuse / containers.
  • Removed brush and overgrowth from many locations.
  • Routine inspection and education of residents / businesses.
  • Rec Department made strides to keep all food served at their programs in one area.
  • Bait stations installed at buildings and transfer station and in sewers.
  • Purchased rodent-proof trash receptacles for the Farmer’s Market.
  • Landlord Training sponsored by the Police Department.
  • Resident Letter created; Property Owner Violation Letter created.

Key Actions in Progress by the City Now:

  • Develop public education and awareness campaign.
  • Identification of hotspots.
  • Weekly meetings of rodent control workgroup
  • Creation of rat identification qualifications of rat infestations and response.
  • Review of current processes and educational materials.
  • Installation of rodent-proof trash receptacles for the Farmers Market.
  • Creation of Inspection checklist.

Planned Actions for 2022 & On:

  • Bimonthly reports to the License and Health Committee.
  • Hiring of pest control vendor to address a hot spot.
  • Conduct walk-throughs in neighborhoods identified as hot spots.
  • Place door hangers and direct mail to residents in hotspots.
  • Produce Public Service Announcements (PSA) relating to how residents can take action.
  • Short videos showing the baiting currently done by City staff.
  • Acquire additional funding and create ongoing education and campaigning.
  • Add an Insect and Rodent Control Food Safety Fact Sheet to the website.
  • Create brochures for all licensed food establishments on preventing rat harborages and the consequences of not doing so.


  1.  If I see a rat, what should I do? If you spot a rat inside or outside your home, please report it to the West Allis Health Department by calling 414-302-8600. Provide your name, phone number, address, and the address of the sighting.
  2. What will the Health Department do if I report a rat? We will provide tips and educational information on preventing rats, and recommend the strategies you can implement to deter rats. We cannot provide extermination services, but can issue orders to properties that are contributing to the problem. Property owners may seek extermination services at their own expense.
  3. Where do rats live? Rats live above ground in burrows, and build their burrows in areas they deem safe and food-secure. Rats prefer to burrow in soft dirt, many times next to or along a foundation of a garage, or under a shed, deck or covered porch. Residents are encouraged to take necessary steps, such as keeping their yards clean and free of debris.
  4. I heard I can't have bird feeders or birdbathsBird feeders and baths are welcome, but can attract rats. Bird baths offer rats a source of drinking water, and rats will climb up to bird feeders to feed from them, or can be attracted by spilled seed. If you choose to feed or water birds, City ordinance requires cleaning spilled birdseed from the ground each day. Residents are also encouraged to empty bird baths and bring bird feeders in at night, when rats are most active. If rats are spotted in your area, stop feeding birds.
  5. How far do rats travel from their nest? Rats tend to travel between 100 feet and 300 feet from their nests to search for more nest-building materials and food. This means that if you locate a rat’s nest, the actual rats likely aren’t too far away and could feasibly be trapped in the vicinity.
  6. How long does a wild rat live? Wild rats live an average of 1-2 years, given the prevalence of predators in their environment. Whether they live in cities or out in the country, rats face predators everywhere, such as birds, cats, and much more. 

Rat Investigations

Environmentalists may then conduct investigations to identify potential sources of rats in the area. Please note, however, that the West Allis Health Department's Environmentalists cannot enter private property without the homeowner's permission to investigate for rats, and cannot provide extermination services. If rats or their burrows are sighted on the property, the property owner will receive a letter requesting action be taken to deter rats from the premises. If action is not taken, the property owner will be required to hire a pest control professional at his/her expense.

Many residents resort to the internet to look up possible tactics to get rid of rats. However, only trust information from sources and websites ending in ".gov" or ".edu". While prevention is the best defense, professional pest control experts are recommended if rats are spotted inside your house or if recommended abatement efforts fail.

View rat prevention FAQ

View rat prevention tips for your home or property