You can expect rats in large cities, but homeowners don’t want to see them wandering the nicer neighborhoods in Tampa.

Thousands of rats have been scared from the sewers because of highway construction. Now the- rodents are running through several neighborhoods.

One dad had to tear down a swing-set after rats gnawed holes in the wood and dug up the backyard so badly it started to sink. Now his neighbors want a little “rat revenge,” and the health department’s rat patrol to poison the pack of rodents responsible.

“Rats are just gross,” said homeowner Annie Trace, who has found them in her garage and backyard. “Rats don’t belong here. I think of New York, where they’re always talking about them there- not in my yard.”

Neighbors took photos of the rats they recently trapped alive. The caged critters were caught running a rat race through yards behind Annie’s house, where little kids live and now she won’t let her nine-pound pup out to play at night.

The rats are running rogue, because construction along I-275 and several nearby streets has destroyed their underground burrows and forced them to flee elsewhere.

“I couldn’t give you an estimate,” said Scott Jackson, with the Hillsborough County Health Dept. “Thousands, millions– there’s tons of rats here.”

Health department sanitarians are working their way through Tampa, baiting sewers by hanging wire containing poison from manhole covers.

“Hopefully, the rats will come in, eat the bait, start to kill them,” explained Jackson, as he baited a sewer along a residential street.

The rat patrol has placed 100 pounds of bait so far in the sewers– but that’s not where the rodents usually call home. Your house is.

“Most of the time you’ll see them burrowing under houses, especially where you’re feeding dogs, birds,” said Jackson. “Anytime you leave food out, basically you’re giving rats food, water, and a place to live.”

Sanitarians say vacant and abandoned homes are adding to the rat population in other parts of Tampa. Homeowners are being urged to clean their yards, cut the grass, and keep dog or cat food from being left out, because then it becomes rat food, too.