PAWTUCKET—A Central Avenue family's Chihuahua was viciously attacked by a raccoon that Animal Control officials believe may be rabid, and residents of that area are being asked to take precautions and be vigilant.
Animal Control Director John Holmes said that on Thursday at around 1 p.m., a family of four, including a young child, were in the backyard of their home at 250 Central Ave. with their dog when they were startled by a noise. A raccoon suddenly jumped at their dog and began to attack it.
Holmes said the raccoon kept biting the dog and at one point locked its teeth onto it, so the father grabbed a piece of wood and struck the animal several times. The dog was eventually freed and the raccoon ran off, although it is believed to have been injured.
The Chihuahua suffered several bite wounds to the head and legs and was transported to a local animal hospital for treatment. Because it had not been vaccinated against rabies, and officials are unable to have the raccoon tested, the dog must now be quarantined for six months, according to state protocol.
In addition, because of the exposure of the family members to the raccoon's blood and saliva as they tried to care for their dog, Holmes said it is being recommended that the family undergo the series of rabies prevention shots as a precaution.
“Because of the way this raccoon was described and the way it suddenly attacked, we believe that it's rabid,” said Holmes. “Thank God it attacked the dog and not the little girl.”
Holmes is asking residents to be on the lookout for this raccoon, or any other wild animal that appears to be sick or confused. Anyone who sees a wild animal acting suspiciously is asked to contact Pawtucket Animal Control at 401-722-4243 or the Pawtucket Police dispatch line at 401-726-3911.
In this case, Holmes said the location of the house is not far from the nearby cemetery, where there are woods known to contain wild animals such as raccoons. He said people living around this area should be extra careful when children and small pets are outside.
Holmes added, however, that he doesn't want residents to worry about a city-wide rabies problem. He said that while raccoons are typically nocturnal, healthy ones can sometimes be seen in the daylight hours looking for food, especially if they have recently had a litter. Animal Control workers are not allowed to just trap a wild animal and relocate it if it doesn't appear to be sick.
“We don't want to panic people, but we want them to be vigilant,” Holmes said.