Raccoon euthanized after wife takes him to pet store and other customers kiss him

AUBURN, Maine (AP) — A Maine raccoon was euthanized and tested for rabies after a woman took it to a pet store for a nail trimming and some customers kissed it, state wildlife agencies said.

The raccoon tested negative for the disease and poses no rabies risk to the public, spokesman Mark Latti for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife said Sunday. However, raccoons are one of the most common vectors of rabies in the state, and bringing the wild animal to a pet store poses an unnecessary public health risk, Latti said.

The woman, who could not be identified by authorities, took the raccoon to an Auburn pet store Tuesday, the wildlife agency said. She wanted to have the animal’s nails trimmed, a service the raccoon shop doesn’t offer, the department said.

Several different people touched the animal and some kissed it, the wildlife agency said. The manager then asked the woman to leave the store 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 required euthanasia, Latti said. There is no non-lethal test for rabies in animals, he said.

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Rabies is almost always fatal in humans once symptoms appear, and those who develop it must seek immediate treatment. Wildlife is best left alone, although animal welfare agencies can also be notified if the animals appear to be in distress, Latti said.

“Once they lose their fear of people, they’re more likely to become a nuisance or get run over by a vehicle,” Latti said.

The wildlife department said customers who have touched the animal should still contact their doctor as a precaution. Raccoons can also transmit other diseases to humans and other animals.

The pet store, a location of nationwide chain Petco, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday. A representative from the local store forwarded an inquiry to corporate headquarters in San Diego.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Brian Ashcraft

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