Animal tested positive for rabies

APD logo

UPDATED, Oct. 23: Animal Control Officer Diane Welch urges residents to vaccinate pets against rabies after a raccoon that attacked a 2-year-old girl tested positive for the deadly virus. Welch said she will issue citations to any pet owner whose animal is found to not be vaccinated.

"I'm worried an unvaccinated outdoor cat gets bitten by a sick raccoon, the owner think it's not that bad of a bite from who knows what and then, have mercy, that cat bites someone in the house," Welch wrote on Facebook Wednesday, Oct. 21.

She called the racoon was "one of the largest raccoons we've ever seen," Patch reported. She said her 5-year-old brother called 911.


Welch wrote that vaccine clinics held every weekend at Petco and other pet supply stores.

A raccoon tested positive for rabies after attacking a young girl in Arlington earlier this week, YourArlington reported Oct. 17.

Police Chief Julie Flaherty and Director of Health and Human Services Christine Bongiorno reported the following in an Oct. 16 news release: On Wednesday, Oct. 14, at about 4:15 p.m., Arlington Police were dispatched to a home on Fountain Road for a report that a young child had been bitten by an animal.

On arrival, officers located a child, who was being placed into an ambulance and given medical care by members of the Arlington Fire Department with the child's mother. The release says the child is "younger than 5." Neighbors estimate the toddler is about 2. Channel 10 Boston reported Oct. 18 that the girl, 2, is  recovering.

Bites, scratches

An on-scene investigation determined that the child was in the backyard of the family's home and was attacked by a large raccoon. The child's mother stopped the attack and was able to chase the animal away and called 911. The child suffered bites and scratches from the raccoon.

The child was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and is expected to be OK.

Officers searched the area and were unable to locate the raccoon in their initial search.

About 5:40 p.m., officers located a raccoon that was acting lethargic and was believed to be the one that attacked the child in the area of nearby Buena Vista Road.

Additional officers responded to the area, and the raccoon was humanely euthanized. A neighbor estimated the animal at about 30 pounds. 

Animal control

Arlington Animal Control Officer Diane Welch subsequently responded to the scene and collected the animal and brought to a state testing site to be tested for rabies.

On Friday, Oct. 16, the town Department of Health and Human Services learned from the state Department of Public Health that the latter had confirmed that the raccoon had tested positive for rabies.

"While we do not believe there is any current danger to the community, we wanted to notify residents about this incident so they can be vigilant about protecting their loved ones and pets," Flaherty said in a statement. "Our thoughts go out to the family and the young child who had to suffer this horrific ordeal. If anyone notices any wild animals acting aggressively or strangely, they should call the Arlington Police Department at 781-643-1212 to report it immediately. Please avoid the animal in question and do not approach it."

Some tips

According to the state DPH, rabies is a serious disease that affects the brain and spinal cord in mammals, including humans. Town police and human services offer these tips from the state to help prevent the spread of rabies:

  • Teach children to never approach animals they don’t know – even if they appear friendly.
  • Report any animal that behaves oddly to your local animal control official.
  • Enjoy wild animals from a distance. Do not keep wild animals as pets. This is against the law in Massachusetts.
  • Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies. By law, all dogs, cats and ferrets must be regularly vaccinated against rabies.
  • Don’t feed or water your pets outside. Even empty bowls will attract wild and stray animals.
  • Keep your pets in a fenced yard or on a leash and do not let them roam freely.
  • Keep your garbage securely covered. Open garbage will attract wild or stray animals.
  • Keep your chimney capped and repair holes in attics, cellars, and porches to help keep wild animals like bats and raccoons out of your home.

To learn more about rabies, click here >> 

"Rabies can turn wild animals extremely aggressive toward humans and pets," Bongiorno said in the release. "It is always important to be sure to never approach or feed wild animals. Keeping your trash covered and not leaving pet food outside of your house can be helpful ways to prevent attracting unwanted wild animals into our neighborhoods."

This news announcement was published Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The writer is Benjamin Paulin, who works for John Guilfoil Public Relations, which provides news release for the Arlington police. Bob Sprague added information. A Chanell 10 link was added Oct. 19. Patch reporting was added Oct. 23.