Showdown with raccoons leaves Germantown resident wondering what the city’s responsibility is

 Uettwiller was hanging out at her Morris Street home when a young raccoon popped open her back screen door and began trying to claw through the back door. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Uettwiller was hanging out at her Morris Street home when a young raccoon popped open her back screen door and began trying to claw through the back door. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

Donna Uettwiller is a bona-fide animal lover.

She’s worked with feral cats. Two of her three dogs are rescues.

She even got along OK with the raccoons that have long frequented her leafy Germantown backyard.

No more. Not since the attack.

“It was like something out of a scary movie,” said Uettwiller.

Last month, Uettwiller was hanging out at her Morris Street home when a young raccoon popped open her back screen door and began trying to claw through the back door.

The scratching didn’t stop for nearly and hour, even with Uettwiller’s dogs barking at the raccoon.

“It inspired it,” she said.

After a dip in her above ground pool, the raccoon returned for another, but shorter stint, of thrashing at the door before heading out to the street.

Shaken and a bit crazed, Uettwiller immediately called the Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia to report the Saturday night incident, which she was certain, was the work of a rabid raccoon.

The response from ACCT, she said, was less than comforting. Frustrating, too.

“Sometimes, they’re aggressive,” a dispatcher told Uetwiller.

A representative didn’t come out until Thursday.

Uetwiller’s neighbors had similarly disappointing experience when they called. After an hour of waiting — 45 minutes of ringing, 15 minutes being on hold — ACCT told Diane Mohney that the animal wasn’t sick.

“According to her, she couldn’t send anyone out,” she said. But residents could set a trap at their expense — up to $60.

ACCT could then, for a fee, pick up the raccoon. The other option: throw the trapped raccoon in the car and drop it off to them.

To Mahoney and Uetwiller, it was a somewhat outrageous request.

“It’s the city’s responsibility [to provide a trap],” said Mohney. “It’s like if they asked me to repave the road in front of my house.”

Tara Schernecke, ACCT’s director of field services, said her outfit doesn’t round up a raccoon unless there’s a good indication it may be rabid – things like visible drool, stumbling or walking in circles.

By law, ACCT can’t re-release an adult raccoon. And so, they are euthanized no matter what. The city’s Health Department will then test for rabies by performing a microscopic anaylssis of the raccoon’s brain tissue.

After hearing about Uetwiller’s scary showdown, Schernecke said ACCT should have gone out that night. The raccoon’s behavior was definitely atypical.

“Normally they’re not trying to get in,” she said. “That would be a concerning behavior.”

“Our person maybe didn’t understand what she meant,” Schernecke added.

Uetwiller set a trap shortly after her encounter with the raccoon. Since then, nothing has wandered in, but she’s still concerned there could be more rabid raccoons out there.

She’s pretty sure the raccoon that dug up her door was part of a family that could now have infected members.

Just this weekend, Uetwiller said she saw an “agitated” raccoon in the middle of the day following “loud, aggressive sounds and fighting.”

“I just want the city to have a plan,” she said.

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