Dothan Police pick up suspicious raccoon; Houston County Health Department not too concerned

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - The Dothan Police Department responds to all kinds of calls on a regular basis, but they got one this morning at Westgate Park that was a little out of the ordinary.

They found a sick raccoon exhibiting signs of rabies.

"I've been bitten twice by dogs and had anxiety and worried about rabies," said Westgate Park Cyclist John Michael.

John Michael rides the trail at Westgate Park at least once a week.

"I enjoy the fact that there are no loose dogs here,” said Michael. “It's spectacular to ride back there. It's beautiful. It's a great asset to Dothan I think."

Now John may not have to be too worried about loose dogs while he's enjoying the trail at Westgate, but Dothan Police did find something that could raise some eyebrows.

Dothan police captured a sick raccoon that "appeared confused and disoriented, moved slowly and had difficulty walking."

"That's not normal for raccoons to come out during the day,” said Keith Hicks, Houston County Public Health Department Environmentalist. “There are other diseases like distemper that does mimic the rabies virus. There was no known human or pet contact with it, so there was no reason for us to test it."

Hicks said this is the first call they've received this year on a "raccoon acting strangely" in Dothan.

They had three cases of rabies in Houston County last year.

He said even if pets have been vaccinated, that alone won't be enough.

"If they do come in contact with a wild animal, if the animal is currently vaccinated, they do need to be re-boostered and watched for 45 days,” said Hicks.

Hicks also noted it's very rare for smaller mammals, like squirrels and mice, to have rabies because they usually don't survive an attack from a rabid animal.

While John Michael feels safe on his bike, some trail walkers are making sure they are prepared for the worst.

"What I got right here is a little pepper spray, a little mace,” said Kendrick Outlaw, who walks the Westgate Trail. “You got to keep it cool just in case anything go wrong you got to be safe at all time and protect yourself at all times."

Hicks wanted to remind pet owners it’s the law to vaccinate pets over three months old for rabies, because the health department recommends unvaccinated animals that catch the disease be put down.

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