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INDIAN LAND - Ravenwood resident Joe Patterson knew there was something wrong with a raccoon on his property last week.
Patterson said he heard one of his dogs "barking his head off" and went to investigate. He saw an obviously sick raccoon jerking around his yard.
"One – you don't see a raccoon during the day, and, two, he was staggering," Patterson said.
While not sure if it had rabies, Patterson shot the raccoon. He burned the animal's remains after making calls to Lancaster County Animal Control and then the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Animal Control told Patterson to call DHEC.
"When I called DHEC, they acted like they didn't want anything to do with it," Patterson said.
A DHEC worker suggested that Patterson take the dead raccoon to Faulkner Animal Hospital in Lancaster so the head could be sent off to DHEC for rabies testing. But that would have cost Patterson $35.
So Patterson cremated the animal, as he put it.
DHEC doesn't respond to any live animal call, and only responds when a suspected rabid animal has bitten or scratched a person, said agency spokeswoman Clair Boatwright.
"Our business is the human side," she said. "We are not about the animal. We test the suspect animal for rabies."
Lancaster County had three cases of rabies, meaning there was some kind of human exposure, in 2007, Boatwright said.
Those cases involved a cat, dog and raccoon.
The most recent case, in the raccoon, was reported in December.
Warm-blooded animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, cats, ferrets, cows and horses can carry the rabies virus, which attacks the central nervous system. It is fatal for humans and animals.
DHEC recommends that all pets be vaccinated against the fatal virus.
Rabid animals often appear sick and are sometimes easily approached by humans. An animal with rabies may charge and attack humans and pets.
If you must dispose of a rabid animal, you should keep the head intact, as the brain is used in testing for the disease. Bag the animal, and do not handle it with bare hands, DHEC recommends.
Anyone bitten by an animal suspected of having rabies needs to wash the wound with soap and water and see a doctor, who will report it to DHEC.
State law requires that all animal bites be reported to DHEC.
Patterson said he's heard about recent reports about rabid animals in Indian Land, and he wanted to get the word out about his experience.
"I just want other people to know" about the possibility, Patterson said Monday. "I've warned my neighbors about it."
Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or firstname.lastname@example.org