Maine authorities have euthanized a baby raccoon after a woman brought the potentially rabies-infected animal to a Petco store for a nail trim and allowed several strangers to interact with it, including kissing the animal.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife confirmed on Friday that the raccoon tested negative for rabies, but state regulations require the euthanasia of animals in such cases.
The search for the raccoon and its owner began on Tuesday afternoon when suspicions arose about the presence of the deadly disease. The woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, entered the Auburn store with the baby raccoon to have its nails trimmed, a service not offered by Petco.
While waiting, multiple individuals handled the raccoon, and some even kissed it, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, told New York Post.
Once the store manager became aware of the wild animal’s presence, the woman was promptly removed from the premises, and state health and animal authorities were immediately notified. Possessing wildlife is illegal in Maine, and Petco does not provide services for raccoons.
Although the raccoon did not exhibit any signs of rabies, such as excessive salivation or aggressive behavior, authorities were concerned about the possibility of it being a carrier due to its species.
Raccoons, along with skunks, bats, and foxes, are the most common carriers of rabies in Maine, as stated by the state’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Given the potential exposure to the animal’s saliva through kissing, authorities were worried about the spread of the disease. However, with the negative rabies test results, those who came into contact with the raccoon at Petco are not required to seek treatment.
Maine’s testing guidelines mandate the euthanasia of animals submitted for testing, which led to the raccoon being put down. The Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory recommends that animals be decapitated by a veterinarian or trained personnel for testing purposes. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has not yet responded to requests for comment.