Citizens want better response to rabies calls
Easter Sunday was filled with more than just chocolate bunnies for the Barker family. Their holiday turned less than festive when their family dog alerted them to the presence of an aggressive raccoon in their front yard early in the morning.
Based on the coon’s daytime appearance and the animal’s behavior, Keith Barker suspected it might be rabid.
Traci Barker shot the raccoon, which was approaching the house and spitting in her direction.
Afterwards, she called Morgan County Animal Control to find out what she should do with the coon.
“They called back and said they only deal with domestic animals,” said Keith Barker.
The Barkers also called the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
“They didn’t want to deal with it,” Barker said.
So the couple called a private animal control company, took the animal carcass to them, and paid to have it tested for rabies. The test came back positive.
The Barkers said they were lucky they were able to deal with the wild animal themselves, but the situation could have been much more urgent. It seemed, they said, that no help was coming from agencies supported by their tax dollars.
If the kids hadn’t been so concerned with seeing what the Easter Bunny brought them, they would have followed the dog outside and could have been attacked by the coon, said Traci Barker.
Another coon run-in
Marty Brown said her daughter had a similar experience a few years ago, when a rabid raccoon showed up on her deck. Calls to Animal Control and the Sheriff’s Department yielded nothing but the advice for Brown to shoot the animal herself and bury it in her yard.
She finally found someone in her subdivision that could come shoot the animal.
Brown’s daughter, a vet, had the coon tested and verified it was rabid. Her concern was not only for her own safety, but also for the children living next door and her own pets.
“There are some people who don’t have firearms. That’s why we need Animal Control. It’s a public safety issue,” said Keith Barker.
Animal Control Officer Holly Jack pointed out that property owners are responsible for dealing with any wild animals that come onto their land.
She said her title is a “misnomer,” because she really only deals with dogs.
“We are dog wardens in the county. We don’t even handle cats,” said Jack.
She said once there is human contact with a wild animal, DNR or the Health Department will step in.
“With or without human contact, someone needs to pick up the ball,” said Keith Barker. “We need someone to deal with this — a true animal control officer.”
Write a protocol
County resident James Campbell suggested the commissioners review the procedure they follow when someone contacts a county officer about a wild animal hazard.
“Have a tear sheet that 911 operators can look at that tells them what to do and who to call,” Campbell said.
“I think we need to create a protocol,” agreed Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson.
“It would be nice to know if you call 911, they can do something about it or call someone to handle it,” said Brown.
“It seems to be a growing problem,” said Commissioner Brad Close.