A racoon dog has been found in the garden of St John’s Hospice in Lancaster.
The unusual animal was spotted in the back garden of the Slyne Road hospice by Paul Nelis, St John’s Facilities Co-ordinator. Having seen the creatures in the wild in Sumatra, animal lover Paul immediately identified the animal as a raccoon dog – a member of the Canidae family which also includes foxes.
The hospice soon called the RSPCA to ask for help with the rare animal.
When RSPCA Inspector Sarah Hayland arrived at the scene, she found the raccoon dog secured inside the building.
She said: “This was my first raccoon dog rescue, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
“But thanks to a quick-thinking member of staff and with the help of dog biscuits, the raccoon dog had been enticed into the building through some patio doors into a safe, secure room.
“This turned out to be the office used by the doctors.
“The raccoon dog proved to be a real novelty for the hospice staff and inpatients, and he appeared to be quite used to humans, which would suggest he is an escaped pet.
“When I examined him, he was uninjured, though a little bit smelly.
“I was able to gently coax him into a carrier before taking him to Wolfwood Animal Rescue in Lancaster, which had kindly agreed to care for him temporarily over the weekend.”
Stephen Wakelin, Manager at Wolfwood Animal Rescue said: “It was intriguing to watch this animal and a privilege to look after him.
“But raccoon dogs don’t make good pets.
“They really should be living in the wild in East Asia, where they originally come from.”
The raccoon dog is now being cared for by staff at RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Nantwich, Cheshire.
RSPCA Inspector Sarah Hayland said: “If anyone has any information about this raccoon dog’s owner, please contact the RSPCA’s appeal line on 0300 123 8018. Your call will be treated in complete confidence.”
In recent years the RSPCA has dealt with a number of incidents of raccoon dogs being kept as pets that have escaped, or been deliberately released, into the wild.
The RSPCA believes that they do not make good pets and the animal charity would strongly discourage anyone from buying or keeping them as pets.
They need a great deal of space and their needs cannot adequately be met within typical household environments.
It is also an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) to release these animals, or allow them to escape, into the wild because they are not a native species to the UK.
Raccoon dogs were also recently listed on European Invasive Species Regulations, which means that from February 2019, new stock cannot be sold and owners will have to keep their animals securely and not allow them to breed.
If you see an animal you have concerns about please call the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999.