Your “pet” raccoon will be killed. It’s your fault.

Folks, we need to have a talk. This isn’t a pleasant, cute, or cuddly talk, but it’s one that we Tennessean animal lovers need to have.

I get calls all the time from people who find baby raccoons and, instead of calling a qualified rehabilitator, they choose to raise the animal as a pet. By the time I am contacted, the raccoon is almost always too tame to ever be released, and has also bitten people.

These raccoons have to be killed.

If you have been bitten by a wild raccoon, you may have been exposed to rabies. There is no approved test for rabies in a living animal, and no quarantine period known to reliably identify rabies in raccoons. Raccoons with a certain variant of rabies can sometimes have the virus for months, with few or no symptoms.

If your wild “pet” raccoon has bitten you or someone else— something that is inevitable for a stressed wild animal in a human house— I am required by law to refer the raccoon for euthanasia. After it’s euthanized, it’s decapitated and tested for rabies so the bite victim will know if they need post-exposure treatment.

There’s no way to candy-coat this. It’s ugly. It’s unfair. It’s horrific. It’s the exact opposite of what I want to do with my life. I don’t euthanize animals for fun. Every single case haunts me. But I will never risk my permit or your life because you thought it would be fun to raise a raccoon yourself.

This is completely preventable. If you have found a raccoon or any other wild animal that needs help, please contact a permitted rehabilitator immediately. Not after it’s stopped being cute, not after it’s gotten aggressive, not after it’s bitten your child, not after it’s become gravely ill from improper care. Call a rehabilitator immediately.

Don’t sentence an animal to death. And please, don’t put me in the position of needing to be part of it.

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