SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Animal control officers are reminding families to make sure their pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations after a woman and her dog were chased by a raccoon in Canton Thursday. Canton police are still waiting on rabies test results on the raccoon.
Last week, they responded to a different raccoon underneath a porch behaving aggressively. Police say even a mink was wandering in town unafraid of people. But just because a wild animal acts aggressively toward humans and pets, it doesn’t mean rabies are to blame.
Your dog may have to be on a bit tighter of a leash now that wild critters are getting more active as the weather warms up.
“And that’s when we see them more congregating with each other and spreading disease amongst each other, so we do start to see more disease in the spring,” Sioux Falls Animal Control Supervisor Julie Lindstrom said.
Cases of rabies are rare in wild animals. Animal control says if an animal appears ill, it’s more likely distemper, a different type of virus but with similar symptoms.
“They’ll probably be wandering around in the daylight, they may look drunk, kind of stumbling, maybe circling, maybe acting disoriented and also be extra aggressive because they’re not feeling well,” Lindstrom said.
“In the Sioux Falls and surrounding area, we very rarely see a rabies-positive raccoon, it’s really almost always canine distemper,” Sioux Falls Area Humane Society Humane Officer Caley Harr said.
One way you can protect your pets from exposure to any potentially deadly disease is by making sure you keep close tabs on them whenever they’re outdoors.
“What we see most commonly is a farm dog running around, runs up to a raccoon and maybe gets a hold of it. It’s common. But as long as your dog is vaccinated, your risk is low,” Harr said.
Sioux Falls Animal Control says it tested eight raccoons last year for rabies. None came back positive.
While rabies can spread to people, distemper cannot. Bats are the biggest carriers of rabies. That’s why animal control urges cat owners to get their felines vaccinated, since bats, like cats, like the indoors.