Some pet owners in the Halifax Regional Municipality want the city and Halifax Water to take action on a teeming rat population.

Veteran dog breeder Brenda Potter lost her dog Pippen to leptospirosis last fall. She believes it was the result of a rat sneaking into her backyard and giving Pippen leptospirosis. 

“We caught 15 to 20. They chewed a hole under by garage door,” says Potter.

Plumber Trevor Wheatley says rat-related calls have steadily increased over the last five years. He now gets about one a week.

Wheatley says he's dealt with rats in everything from rental properties to million-dollar homes. The rodents often simply climb up through the toilet.

“Some people wonder, 'Why isn't my plumbing leaking if I have rats coming in my house?'” Wheatley says. “If there's a break in the pipe, it could be a vent pipe, it could be the top of the sewer pipe where water won't come out of the pipe, but the rat can."

Halifax Water admits it sometimes stirs up rat-activity in its work, and immediately calls exterminators to deal with the problem when it does.

What the utility doesn't do is bait sewer lines – something the city did when it was responsible for the pipes.

"It's actually a poison, and the poison they put in the sewer makes its way through the waste water system into our wastewater treatment plants and into the local water body," says James Campbell, spokesperson for Halifax Water.

Potter believes Halifax Water should take action on the increase in rats, especially with the recent spike in leptospirosis cases in the city.

“I think the construction is part of the problem, combined with the weather, combined with the fact that nothing is being done to control the population," she says. “When you're faced with a public health problem, something needs to be done."

But Campbell says there’s risk of the rat poison getting into Halifax Harbour.

“It's a dangerous thing to deal with,” he says. “We don't have crews that have that training to deal with that.”

Potter says some form of action needs to be taken, or more dogs like Pippen will be taken too soon.

“Pippen was even more than just my companion,” she says. “He gave back. He was a therapy dog for children."

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.