Rabid Raccoon Runaround

News
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 - 2:42pm

Florida agencies pass the buck on calls about rabid animals.

"We literally, we were hysterical," said Kim Gager.

Gager and her family didn't know what to do when they found a seizing raccoon, frothing at the mouth in their Jacksonville, Florida backyard in the middle of the day.

"We pulled out the phone books, we could not find anybody," she said.

They found out the hard way that suspected rabies cases in raccoons often fall through the cracks in Jacksonville.

"It got to the point where we couldn't get anyone here," she said.

She called the city, and spoke to Animal Control.

They told her they could only handle domestic animals, not wildlife, so they sent her to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The state agency said the only animals they can trap are alligators, and the Duval County Health Department should be handling it.

When she called the health department, someone told her they can only test animals for rabies after they're dead, and referred her back to Jacksonville Animal Control.

"Where is that helping us? Their job is to come before it does the damage," she said.

But according to agency policy, all three departments only respond after the animal has scratched or bitten someone.

Even calling 9-1-1 doesn't help; the police can only discharge their weapon if the animal is attacking someone. "If it bites you, it's too late," she said.

Using that logic, one of Kim's family members killed the raccoon with a shovel and then took it away to be tested for rabies.

While she says it was difficult to kill the animal, the alternative would have been worse.

"What would have happened if my grandchild had found that animal first," she said.

Another option is hiring a private trapper to remove the animal.
 

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