The Raccoons long ago declared war on The Humans, but it appears the humans are fighting back, with a new report in the Post claiming the city has euthanized hundreds of raccoons to test them for rabies. Of the 662 killed and tested between 2014 and 2016, the Post says only 18 tested positive for rabies, which is good news for humans who fear the raccoons eating out of their trash cans but less good for the many raccoons who died to bring us this information.
Raccoons weren't the only victims of the Great Potential Rabies Purge—the city reportedly tested 1,248 creatures for rabies during the aforementioned time period, though only 23 total harbored the disease. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rabies exposure is quite rare—only 1 to 3 humans in the United States contract rabies per year, with the last known fatal case in the state of New York affecting a 25-year-old man who was bit by a dog in Afghanistan. In New York City, there hasn't been a fatal rabies case since 1947.
Still, state law requires animals who look sick to get tested for rabies, and in order for an animal to be tested, it must be euthanized. Raccoons—along with foxes, skunks, bats, and groundhogs—are a "rabies vector species," which means they're at a higher risk for contracting the disease. Healthy raccoons get to live a long garbage-eating life, but if they appear ill or are acting strangely, things will not end well for them. "Healthy animals are not euthanized for the sole purpose of rabies testing," Health Department spokesman Julien Martinez told the Post. "Most of the animals that underwent rabies testing were previously set to be humanely euthanized. Only animals that are sick or injured are humanely euthanized."
PETA says the city's raccoon strategy is misguided and cruel. Stephanie Bell, PETA’s senior director of cruelty casework, told the tabloid, "If officials want to do something productive about rabies — which they’ve already shown is not endemic in the wild raccoon population — they should enforce vaccination laws for domestic animals, ensure that garbage is disposed of properly, and pass prohibitions against feeding wildlife."
Raccoon enthusiasts who want to help a procyonid in need should consider opening their homes to Mr. Jiggles, who has to vacate his Park Slope residence because his human owner's new boyfriend is allergic. Mr. Jiggles comes with raccoon undies and a handmade nest and he is extremely cute, though note that it is not technically legal to keep a raccoon as a pet in New York.