A six-year-old Bernardsville girl reported to have been attacked by a raccoon late last month while playing in the family backyard has completed treatment to prevent rabies, and is doing well, her mother said.
The mother, Heather MacDonald of Somerset Avenue, said she had not seen the animal again. However, police and Bernardsville's contractual health and animal control services say that the remains of a raccoon killed in the general area last Friday — although there is no proof this is the same raccoon — is being tested by the state for rabies.
Bernardsville police kill "sickly" raccoon
Bernardsville Borough police found a raccoon that appeared to be sickly in a storm drain located at Seney Drive and Anderson Hill Road last week and shot and killed the animal, which was hissing at the officer, according to Police Lt. Demmings Hoadley.
Hoadley said that the department then contacted St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center, Bernardsville's contracted animal control service, which removed the dead animal.
Kim Saunders, vice president of operations and communications for St. Hubert's, said that Bernardsville's contracted health department — which is Bernards Township — was contacted, and a request was made to have the raccoon's body tested for rabies. However, she said that the health department declined.
Saunders said that St. Hubert's arranged and paid for the raccoon's remains to be prepared for testing, as required by the state. "We felt it was important," she said.
Michelle Wysocki, animal control officer in Bernards, said that although the health department didn't prepare the remains for testing, the township did pick up the animal and drop it off at a location where the state will collect it for testing.
Wysocki said she doesn't expect that test results will be available until Friday or early next week.
Normally, Wysocki said, the Bernards health department wouldn't request state testing for an animal that had not come in contact with a person — as was the case with the raccoon killed by Bernardsville police.
She also said that this raccoon, unlike the one that reportedly jumped on the child, did not attack anyone, and merely appeared to be sick. "This isn't something we would normally test for," she said.
However, Wysocki said she submitted the animal to the state lab based on the request from St. Hubert's.
She said she is concerned that someone who is undergoing rabies treatment might stop if an animal is captured and tests negative. That might not be the same animal that may have bitten or scratched them, she said.
However, MacDonald said her daughter already is done with treatment, and at this point has only a small scar to show as a result of the attack. "She will have the story for the rest of her life," she added.
MacDonald said many other parents of children at the Bedwell Elementary School in Bernardsville had spoken to her about the incident.
MacDonald said her daughter, who is almost 7, was playing outdoors digging in the dirt at about 5:30 p.m. on a weekday afternoon last month, about 20 feet from the back door.
MacDonald said her back door was open, and she was cooking dinner, when all of a sudden she heard the girl screaming.
"When I ran out, it [the raccoon] was on top of her," MacDonald said. "She was trying to kick it off," said MacDonald, who said the animal had bitten the girl's leg.
"I kicked it," said MacDonald, who said she managed to get the raccoon off the girl. "I picked her up, and it came running after us." She said the two finally entered the house, and the raccoon did not get in.
She said she thoroughly washed the wound immediately and took the child to Morristown Medical Center in Morristown.
Saunders said the incident underscores the need to obtain rabies vaccines for all household pets, since she said owners do not always know if they have been exposed.