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Austin Animal Services sends warning after rabid raccoon found downtown

Officials said a dog attacked and killed the animal outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Animal Services and Austin Public Health are asking the community to be on alert around animals such as skunks, coyotes, foxes or bats after a rabid raccoon was found in Downtown Austin earlier this week.

Officials said they were called to the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Aug. 26 around 6:30 a.m. after a dog attacked and killed the animal nearby.

Mark Sloat, the program manager at Austin Animal Center said the large dog is a German Shepherd Rottweiler mix, which makes it even more surprising the raccoon attacked. 

"The raccoon immediately came at the dog, and so the dog defended itself," said Sloat. "That's very unusual – a raccoon out mid-morning, and then to be that aggressive towards another very large animal is a bit strange."

The raccoon was then picked up by an animal protection officer and taken for testing to the Texas Department of State Health Services, which is standard protocol involving any domestic animal or human interaction with wildlife that breaks skin.

Right next to the hotel is what Sloat called the largest bat colony in the U.S. It is right under the Congress Avenue bridge. Every year visitors travel to Austin to experience it.

"My worry is that because it's such an urban area with a lot of hikers, there's obviously the hotel," said Sloat. "It's a very small area with a lot of people around."

Sloat said 50% of the bats they test for rabies are positive, but it's a less harmful strain of the virus. He hopes the results show the raccoon was infected with bat rabies instead of a different strain.

"It's the easiest to deal with as far as your body, but all rabies is considered deadly to humans," said Sloat.

He said it will take over a week to get the results.

Officials have contacted the dog's owner, a Hurricane Laura evacuee, and are canvassing the area to see if any other pets may have come into contact with the raccoon, or to see if any wildlife in the area may be behaving in an unusual manner. This could include turning in circles, twitching or foaming at the mouth.

Animal Services offered the following tips to protect pets and family from exposure to wild animals:

  • Vaccinate your dogs and cats, as well as livestock.
  • Restrain your pets. Do not allow them to roam freely in public.
  • Avoid contact with wild animals and unknown dogs and cats.
  • Do not touch sick or injured animals.
  • If your pet is bitten, scratched or in a fight with any animal, call 311 or 512-974-5000.

More information on rabies prevention can be found here.

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