Rabid raccoon goes down with fight.

 
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Byline: Susan Nest

SHREWSBURY - While Leona Pease has had her hands full this past week dealing with loose dogs (see police log, page 2), a recent animal incident resulted in the first positive rabies report since she became Shrewsbury's animal control officer six years ago.

No domestic animal has ever tested positive for rabies in Shrewsbury, though raccoons, bats, skunks, though not many in recent years, and a red fox and a feral kitten, in the early 1990s - have all tested positive, according to Animal Inspector Bob Moore.

On June 20, a raccoon attacked a dog near Lake Quinsigamond.

The dog, which received a minor scratch from the raccoon, was up-to-date on its rabies shots, but was given a booster shot, according to Moore.

"With any inoculation, there's always the slightest chance of failure," Pease said. "It's always a good idea to get an animal checked after any altercation with a wild or domestic animal and get the vet's opinion if it should be re-inoculated."

After the incident with the dog, the raccoon swam across the cove and went after a toy poodle.

The owner was attempting to keep the raccoon away from the dog with a shovel when a neighbor told him the raccoon was not exhibiting normal behavior and might be rabid.

At that point, the man killed the raccoon with the shovel.

While there was no contact between the animals, "we treated it as if there was contact," Pease said. "The owner brought (the dog) to the vet and it was re-inoculated."

Both dogs were placed on a 45-day quarantine to make sure they are healthy. The in-house quarantine with minimal exposure to people will end on Aug. 4, said Moore, who added that it can take up to 45 days to ensure an animal doesn't have rabies.

The raccoon was also brought to a vet's office where its head was cut off and then sent to the State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain for testing.

"The Health Department is responsible for getting (the specimen) to the state lab," said Board of Health Director Nancy Allen. "If it involves a human, or domestic animal or pet, we put all our efforts into getting that animal and getting it tested."

The criteria for having an animal suspected of having rabies, tested at the state lab, is if it has had contact with a human or domestic animal.

If there has been contact and the police kill the animal, they must be careful not to damage its head.

Rabies is a "fairly fragile virus that only appears in brain tissue," Allen said.

The animal would be sent either...

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