Raccoons get a reprieve

Posted: October 25, 2011

"Why does a raccoon get more civil rights than a rat?"

No, that's not a setup for a joke. It was a serious question posed by City Councilman Jim Kenney during Council's Public Health and Human Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

At issue: a bill by Councilman Darrell Clarke requiring the city to only capture raccoons that are nuisances and to avoid killing them in the process.

Says Mayor Nutter: "I do not like raccoons."

Well, virtually no one does, which is why Council passed a Clarke bill in June requiring the animal-control contractor to respond to raccoon-nuisance calls.

Clarke has said the fuzzy critters chased a little girl down 20th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue in a not-so-fun game of tag.

But since the bill passed, animal-rights activists have claimed that it would lead to the killing of innocent raccoons.

That's what prompted the Clarke bill debated Tuesday.

While Nutter doesn't like raccoons, "the administration does not have specific objections to this legislation," said Brian Abernathy, chief of staff for the Managing Director's Office.

The problem is, "the city does not have the resources to act as exterminators," Abernathy said.

He also noted that state law requires that raccoons be destroyed after they're trapped.

Clarke appeared to sympathize.

"Understanding the fiscal situation that we find ourselves in, here in the city, we are unfortunately not at this point in an adequate position to address this issue in a very aggressive way," he said. "But I don't think that we should not enact legislation."

Jaqueline Johnson, 42, has been in an uphill battle with a furry thug who recently invaded her North Philadelphia home. She said the city has been unresponsive.

"There's nobody nowhere to help the citizens of Philadelphia? It's just embarrassing the response we get," Johnson said. "It doesn't seem to be a concern to anyone unless they wake up with a furry pillow next to them."

But the underlying issue, according to Rick Schubert, director of the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, is that "we live in the filthiest city in America. There's everything raccoons need."

Now - despite the bill in June - the city's animal-control contractor, the Animal Care and Control Team at the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, will only remove an animal that is sick or injured or has entered a living room, bedroom or kitchen.

Otherwise residents must contact a licensed exterminator who may charge hundreds of dollars to remove the pest.

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