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Family pet goes rabid, bites owner

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By Alice Du Pont

Three Gadsden County residents and one individual from Augusta, Ga. were exposed to a rabid raccoon last week. All tested positive and are now either in or about to begin treatment, according to Marlon Hunter, director of the Gadsden County Health Department. The name of the family was not released.

The affected family lives north of Quincy close to the Gadsden-Leon county line, near the Georgia border. Hunter said the animal was a family pet they had reared from birth. Family members noticed the animal acting odd during the Christmas holidays when he bit one family member.

A total of two people were bitten, including Laura Wiggins, who was bitten on the foot, and Larry Fountain, who was bitten on the ear.

The animal continued behaving oddly and last Thursday the owner, formerly employed by St. Francis Wildlife Sanctuary, called Gadsden County Animal Control officers to pick up the raccoon.

"We took the animal to veterinarian Dr. Larry Helm, who had the animal tested at a lab in Pensacola. We got the results that the animal had rabies late Friday afternoon," said Anthony Powell, county animal control director.

"We think we've identified everyone who has been exposed and we feel confident that all have gotten or are getting the appropriate treatment," Hunter said.

He said the health department has been working closely with animal control officers throughout the event. On Tuesday morning, animal control officers went to the area to set up traps. Any animals trapped will possibly be relocated from the area.

"We want to share with people, especially those with children, several things. They should make sure their pets are vaccinated regularly, keep their pets on their property, teach their kids to stay away from wild or dead animals. If they see an animal that's acting odd, call the animal control officer," Hunter said.