A juvenile raccoon in Maine was euthanized and tested for rabies after a woman brought it into a pet store for a nail trim and some customers kissed it, state wildlife authorities said.
The raccoon tested negative for the disease, and there is no rabies risk to the public, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife spokesperson Mark Latti said Sunday. However, raccoons are one of the most common carriers of rabies in the state, and bringing the wild animal into a pet store constituted an unnecessary risk to public health, Latti said.
The woman, who has not been identified by authorities, brought the raccoon into an Auburn pet store on Tuesday, the wildlife department said. She was seeking to get the animal’s nails trimmed, which is a service the store does not provide to raccoons, the department said.
It is illegal to keep wildlife, including raccoons, as pets in Maine.
Several different people handled the animal, and some kissed it, the wildlife department said. The store’s manager then asked the woman to leave and contacted the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the department said.
The raccoon was then tested for the disease, which came back negative, but necessitated euthanizing it, Latti said. There is no nonlethal test for rabies in animals, he said.
Rabies is almost always fatal in humans once symptoms appear, and potential sufferers need to seek treatment immediately. Wildlife is best left alone, though animal control authorities can also be notified if the animals appear to be in distress, Latti said.
“When they lose their fear of people they are more likely to become a nuisance or be run over by a vehicle,” Latti said.
The wildlife department said store customers who touched the animal should still contact their health care providers as a precaution. Raccoons are capable of transferring other diseases along to humans and other animals as well.
The pet store, a Petco location, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday. A representative for the local store referred a request on to the company’s corporate office in San Diego.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife is currently searching for the unidentified woman who brought the raccoon to the pet store. The agency reminded Maine residents that it is illegal to possess wildlife and that they should never try to handle, feed or move a wild animal.
“If you care, leave them there,” the department wrote.
It is illegal in Canada to keep a raccoon as a pet. In this country, 25 people in six provinces (Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and British Columbia) have died of rabies since 1924.
— With files from Global News’ Sarah Do Couto.\
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