Council bill targets public menace: Raccoons

Posted: May 06, 2011

Besides crime, the second-biggest concern for some Philadelphians, according to one City Council member, are raccoons, the furry thugs that shack up in your home without paying rent, rummage through your trash and put entire neighborhoods on edge.

Councilman Darrell Clarke introduced a bill yesterday that would make the Health Department responsible for controlling the raccoon population and removing them from homes. Residents are now mostly on their own.

"It's actually the No. 2 issue when we talk to people on the block," Clarke said. "Everybody runs when they see raccoons coming. It's time for the city to step up to the plate."

Adult raccoons are about 2 feet long and weigh 10 to 30 pounds. Although the latest numbers from the Pennsylvania Game Commission show that their population decreased from 2008 to 2009, residents in parts of Clarke's district beg to differ.

Alfred Sheed's German shepherd, Max, was only 4 years old last summer when he was mauled by a raccoon that entered his yard and tried to punk the pooch out of his supper.

Sheed threw various objects at the furry monster, to no avail. His dog later collapsed and bled to death.

"You can only do but so much," said Sheed, 42, of Strawberry Mansion. "I'm not trained to catch them."

Sheed said he is forced to keep his windows closed because raccoons tear up the window screens and rip open the trash. His 5-year-old granddaughter can no longer play in the yard. He called every city agency he could, but no one could help.

As it stands, the Health Department traps animals only when they are "vectors for disease," like rats, or rabid animals, said spokesman Jeff Moran. The Animal Care and Control Team at the Philadelphia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will remove an animal that is sick or injured or has entered a living room, bedroom or kitchen.

Otherwise, if the critter is living in an attic or roaming through the walls, residents must call a licensed exterminator. They charge roughly $350 to trap and remove the fuzzy pests.

The Department of Licenses and Inspections does not trap animals but will clean and seal an abandoned property after efforts to reach the owner are unsuccessful, said spokeswoman Maura Kennedy.

"The biggest problem is abandoned properties," said Wendy Marano, SPCA spokeswoman. "It's just an invitation for raccoons to move in. We do get a number of calls regarding wildlife. We understand it's a frustrating problem."

* In other news, Council passed a bill requiring shelters and businesses to only adopt or sell dogs and cats that have been sterilized. They would also be required to sell pet licenses to buyers.