Philly City Council to investigate growing raccoon menace

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Raccoons, which carry rabies and communicable diseases, like roundworm, are a growing menace in Philly. On Monday, they'll be the focus of a City Council hearing.

In Philly, everybody loves Rocky.

That's Rocky the fighter, not Rocky Raccoon.

In the Beatles song, "Rocky Raccoon" was a lovesick young man from Dakota shot down in a duel. In Philadelphia, raccoons are a growing menace, and will be, on Monday, the focus of a City Council hearing "examining incidents of raccoon infestation," sponsored by Council member Kenyatta Johnson.

The resolution authorizing Monday's hearing said constituents from Johnson's district in Center City, West Philadelphia, and Southwest Philadelphia call to complain about raccoons, but there isn't a city agency that directly addresses the problem.  

The Health Department's Vector Control program, for example, specializes in rats, not raccoons.

The Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT) will respond to raccoon complaints if the raccoons are in people's living quarters or if the animal appears sick. But, if raccoons get inside buildings, they usually stay in crawl spaces, outside ACCT's purview, and most people aren't expert enough to assess whether a raccoon is sick.

And while the Department of Licenses and Inspections seals vacant buildings, in part to keep animals out, it usually concentrates on the ground floors. But raccoons can find a "safe haven in vacant buildings whose upper windows aren't properly secured," the resolution said.

The city does have an educational program on raccoons, according to the resolution, but it has not "been completely effective in removing potentially-dangerous infestations," and "must be coupled with City action aimed at treating sick animals and assisting residents with managing existing raccoon populations that inhabit neighboring structures."

The resolution, cosponsored by Council member Helen Gym, says the city has the tools and workforce able to handle the problem, but better coordination among the relevant departments is necessary.    

The hearing runs from 10 a.m. to noon on Monday in Council chambers, Room 400.