Elizabeth Dellapietro had just put her dog Tilly in the backyard of her Highlands home to play and gone inside when she heard startling yelps.
She ran back outside to find a raccoon attached her pet’s paw, so she hit the raccoon with a watering can until it let go, then called animal control. Animal control arrived a short while later to capture the raccoon, which later tested positive for rabies, Dellapietro said.
“I was stressed. I was shaking,” Elizabeth Dellapietro told NJ Advance Media.
Now, the borough is warning residents on Facebook Monday to keep their animals current with all vaccinations and to be aware of the signs of rabies, which include unusual behavior, excessive salivation and choking or gagging. Dellapietro’s dog was the second pet over the past few weeks to be attacked by a raccoon, officials said.
A raccoon also attacked a cat on Barberie Avenue recently and authorities captured the cat and re-vaccinated it, authorities said.
“Animal Control has not categorized this as a problem nor as an outbreak,” Mayor Carolyn Broullo. “We’ve asked residents to call the police if they see a rabid animal. The PD will notify animal control. There will also be a higher presence of PD, Animal Control and MCSPCA to monitor the situation.”
Dellapietro said she she recently got both of her dogs rabies booster shots and is going through a series of rabies vaccinations herself because of her exposure to her dogs and a cut on her hand. Tilly is now recovering from her injuries in a cast, she said.
But Dellapietro worries there are more rabid raccoons in the area. On Tuesday, she said she called animal control again after spotting a raccoon walking strangely in the neighborhood, but the officers were unable to capture it.
“I know there’s more out there,” she said. “What if something happens?”
Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals, typically through bite wounds. It’s mostly found in wild animals like raccoons, foxes and skunks, according to the CDC. Symptoms include fever, headache, excess salivation, muscle spasms, paralysis, and mental confusion.
Business administrator Michael Muscillo advises residents to keep their garbage can lids closed tightly and avoid leaving food outside where animals can get it. Homeowners can call a pest control service to remove raccoons not showing signs of rabies, but should call police if they appear to have rabies, he said.
“If it’s exhibiting strange signs if it’s drooling, or those type of issues, we are asking residents stay away and call (police) immediately,” Muscillo said.
There were 22 reported rabies cases of rabies in Monmouth County in 2020, and there have been four reported cases so far in 2021, according to the county.
The Monmouth County Department of Health is holding a rabies clinic on May 8 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Neptune City Public Works Garage on Heck Avenue.
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