Officials warn pet owners of sick raccoon outbreak in Pasco County

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — The number of sick raccoons found in Pasco County in the last two years has exploded, now the county is giving a serious warning to pet owners. 

Rabies Control Officer Martin O’Keeffe is concerned about the overwhelming amount of sick raccoons, "it’s a lot and its only month one of the year."

In 2016, Pasco County Animal Services responded to 46 sick raccoon calls. In 2017, that number more than tripled with 155 calls. And in 2018, less than one month in, they’ve already gotten 45 calls about strange acting raccoons. 

"They’re all exhibiting some kind of neurological signs or symptoms. They’re spinning in circles, falling out of trees and they’re snapping their jaws," O'Keeffe said.

O’Keeffe said those are all signs of rabies or distemper — both very serious diseases.

"Unlike the rabies where it has to be exposed to the animal by bite scratch, distemper could be aerosolized so they could be just close to the infected animal," O'Keeffe said.

He said one explanation could be the raccoons are all feeding in the same area.

Just this week Pasco County Animal Services responded to eight separate calls of sick raccoons on the West side of Pasco County.

Dog owner Ashely Disney takes her dog Lindy to Meadows Lake Dog Park in Western Pasco County.

She said, "I get my dog vaccinated because I don’t want her to get sick or end up with anything that’s going to harm her, she’s my baby."

Ashley said she’ll be taking more precautions, "definitely lock them up inside the house because that’s the time the raccoons do come out. Just a word of advice get your dog vaccinated and keep them safe."

And if you see a sick raccoon, O'Keeffe said, "leave them be, call the authorities, let us handle it and come out and see what’s going on."

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