Escaped raccoon prompts health officials to warn residents of rabies

File photo of a raccoon. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — After a captured raccoon escaped its cage in Niagara Falls, officials are sending out a warning about keeping them as pets and rabies.

Health officials in Niagara County think a raccoon captured on North Ave. had been kept as a pet before it was found. After it had been placed in a cage, a health department representative later returned to find the cage open and the raccoon gone.

Officials say it should not have been kept as a pet in the first place.

“Anyone who had direct contact with the raccoon is urged to contact the Niagara County DOH immediately,” Environmental Health Director Paul Dicky said. “Raccoons are at risk of carrying and transmitting rabies, a fatal disease. Rabies disease is 100% preventable if caught early after exposure to the virus; therefore it is imperative to interview persons who had direct contact with the animal.”

Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton is completely against the idea of contact with stray domestic animals and wildlife.

“Do not feed or touch them,” Stapleton said. “Feed your pets inside. Cover your garbage cans with tight-fitting lids. Stray and wild animals can carry dangerous diseases, as well as cause serious injuries. No matter how cute and cuddly these animals appear, they can be dangerous and put your life in jeopardy. Do not touch or solicit the attention of these wild animals. I cannot stress enough, the risks involved in handling wild animals.”

Anyone who sees animals showing strange or sickly behavior can call the Department of Health at 439-7444.

MORE | Find information on rabies vaccination clinics in September here.

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