Raccoon, possibly rabid, killed near downtown Jonesboro

Posted by Jessi Turnure

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A raccoon, possibly with rabies, was shot and killed near downtown Jonesboro.

Just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jonesboro Police Officer Melissa Wells was called to the 1500-block of Madison. The raccoon started to approach her, causing her to shoot and kill it.

The Department of Health will test the raccoon for rabies. But some veterinarians say they do not think the tests will come back positive because raccoon rabies simply do not exist in Arkansas.

Instead, they say it is something very similar to rabies.

"If you see a raccoon that has abnormal behavior, they have acquired canine distemper, which is a very infectious virus. It affects all kinds of animals," Dr. Archie Ryan said. 

But unlike rabies, Ryan said distemper can only affect your pets.

He also said it is not that unusual to see raccoons in an urban setting. "People even in the city have tremendous raccoon populations in their neighborhood and don't even know about it. I know a guy in town that probably trapped over 100 raccoons out of his backyard in a year and a half," Ryan said. 

Ryan said outbreaks like that happen around this time. "Where there's a lot of construction. They're running the raccoons out of their natural environment." 

Being in urban areas during the daytime may not be that unusual for a raccoon, but Ryan said to watch out for other signs. "They'll be outside around people. They'll just be sitting by the side of the road or in your backyard not moving. They will sometimes come up to people, which they wouldn't do."

Ryan said if you see a raccoon demonstrating this behavior, avoid it and take your pet to the vet regularly. "It's important to vaccinate your dogs for distemper in Arkansas because it's out there." 

Ryan also said to avoid leaving food for your pet outside. "Raccoons are very smart and they know your schedule. And if you put it out without paying attention, a lot of times they will come up, run your cat or dog off the bowl, eat whatever they want, and then leave." 

But if pets become infected, Ryan said it takes about four weeks for symptoms to show. "Crusty eyes, runny nose, dry cough. They might have diarrhea, vomiting, sometimes they just have abdominal pain."

If vaccinated, most pets can fight off the virus. But if they were not, Ryan said the disease will start in their brain. "They will develop seizures and it progresses until they seizure and die."

Ryan said that's why it is so important to vaccinate your pets for distemper once a year. He also says if you see animals with any of the symptoms he discussed, call animal control. 

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