Monday, 24 June 2024

Officials investigate woman for keeping wildlife

LAKEPORT – A woman who surrendered dozens of dogs to Lake County Animal Care and Control earlier this month also is being investigated for keeping a wild animal on her property.


The woman, whose name has not been released by local officials, surrendered 70 small breed dogs to county officials after a complaint was made about the animals on Dec. 16, as Lake County News has reported.


Also found on her property at the time was a raccoon, which Animal Care and Control said was turned over to state Fish and Game officials.


Game Warden Loren Freeman told Lake County News that he was investigating the case.


He said Animal Care and Control notified him that they had found the raccoon. "I advised them to seize it."


Under California law it's a crime to possess certain wild animals, including raccoons, Freeman explained.


One concern about raccoons is that they carry rabies but have subdued symptoms when suffering from the disease, he said.


Freeman said keeping wildlife like raccoons is a misdemeanor; convictions can result in up to $2,000 in fines and six months in jail, "but it's typically not nearly that high."


He said he sees one or two cases a year of local people keeping wild animals as pets. "We do have quite a problem" when it comes to keeping wildlife, he added.


"Raccoons, opossums, squirrels – people seem to take them when they're cute and cuddly," said Freeman.


People usually take the animals when they're babies and hand-raise them. "They don't really domesticate," said Freeman.


Freeman said there also is a big problem with people attempting to keep deer as pets.


Deer get food aggressive as they get older, and then people try to release them back into the wild. Freeman said there have been numerous cases where the animals have to be destroyed for public safety reasons.


When people are found with wildlife, Freeman said Fish and Game has several options on what to do with the animals.


First, they can return the animal to where the people got it, putting it back out into the wild.


Second, they can ship it out of state. This works in cases where people have brought animals like alligators from another area. It also works with such animals as ferrets, which are legal to keep as pets in other states but aren't legal in California.


The third choice, said Freeman, is to destroy the animal.


That, unfortunately, appears to be the option for the raccoon in this case.


"I looked at rehabilitating this one and it's not an option," he said, adding that the local wildlife rehabilitation program at Spirit Wild on Cobb is unwilling to take the animal.


The raccoon also has issues because it's been exposed to humans and to dozens of dogs, he said. Trying to release it into the wild likely would not be a success.


"The only choice is to destroy the animal to protect the rest of our population," he said.


Freeman said the investigation could lead to a formal complaint process and prosecution through the District Attorney's Office.


Freeman said it's unfortunate when animals are taken from the wild and then have to be destroyed due to safety reasons.


Taking the animals from their homes in the wild, he added, ultimately is "the wrong thing."


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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