Here are some more quotes from yesterday’s bizarre City Council committee meeting considering an ordinance introduced by Councilman Darrell Clarke allowing city Animal Control to humanely trap nuisance raccoons. The camps were divided strongly for and against abating the critters.
On one side were Councilmembers who have been inundated with constituents calling and begging them to find a city agency that will take care of raccoon problems and the raccoon-plagued citizens themselves; on the other, animal preservationists and the City Managing Director’s Office testifying on behalf of the Nutter administration, who said that it would be fiscally impossible and illegal under state law to trap and release every nuisance raccoon in Philadelphia.
But the way the system works now is that L&I can only issue a violation to homeowners of raccoon-infested properties, who, in the case of vacant buildings, are often unable to be found. The PSPCA, which does animal control for the city, won’t pick up raccoons unless they are already trapped and the Health Department will only trap them if they pose an imminent danger, leading to a merry-go-round of city departments for residents who live next door to vacant properties and find raccoons coming over to their houses.
A circuslike atmosphere prevailed yesterday, with Councilmembers dissolving into laughter at times over the surreal nature of the debate. Maybe Clarke summed it up best when he said, “You talk about a digital divide: it’s clear we have a raccoon divide here because people in certain neighborhoods take it very serious and people in certain neighborhoods don’t.”
“We have all this diversity training. What if we added tolerance for
other species?” said Christina Kobland of Native Return. “What’s one
person’s nuisance is another person’s pleasure … This legislation will
result in thousands of deaths of innocent animals trying, just like us,
“No city in the country abates raccoons in the way you’re asking,”
Brian Abernathy of the City Managing Director’s Office said. “Just know
that whatever legislation you pass will not change the way we deal with
“It’s an issue of education,” Abernathy said. “Possums and raccoons won’t hurt you … Racoons are lazy and harmless animals.”
“Raccoons pose no harm to people, even if you see them walking around,” said Sara Speed, State Humane Society Director.
“The problem with raccoons in the city is not a problem with raccoons,”
said Rick Schubert of the Schuylkill Valley Nature Center. “They’re
only a symptom. The problem is that we live in the filthiest city in
“Raccoons are beings to be respected and their welfare is an issue,”
said Lee Hall of Friends of Animals. “They do belong to Earth, including
“One night they were coming through the ceiling; the next night they
came through the bathroom walls,” said North Philadelphia homeowner Jacqueline Johnson of her raccoon problem.
“They look into my bedroom window,” said West Philadelphia homeowner Erika Gillison in a February Fox News clip shown on a projector by Councilman Clarke as evidence of the problem. “When I go to look out to see, like, what are they doing, they’re looking in as I’m looking out … I turned around and looked and the raccoon was behind us and I yelled and when I yelled, the raccoon looked at me like, ‘Why are you yelling?'”
“I think that film speaks for itself … You say that raccoons aren’t dangerous,” Clarke said. “But tell that to the residents of North Philadelphia where, at 27th and Cecil B. Moore, a raccoon chased a girl down the street … People shouldn’t have to deal with racoons running up and down the street.”
“I talked to one gentleman who took action on his own. I said, ‘Please don’t keep repeating to me that you shot a raccoon,'” Clarke said. “But that’s how desperate people are.”
“I have a neighbor also that uses a weapon to get rid of
raccoons in his backyard,” said Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller.
“Someone told me that last night – they were complaining about possums and said they were going to shoot them,” said Councilwoman Marian Tasco.
After hearing tips on how to scare away raccoons recommended by the city, Councilman Jim Kenney said, “Does the administration recommend any specific thing we yell at the raccoons when we are flashing the lights on and off to make it more effective?”
“I don’t understand. If rats had infested a house, you would be killing them and sealing up the house,” Kenney said. “Why do raccoons have more civil rights than rats?”
“Maybe we could get a state waiver to allow you to remove the raccoons, but not euthanize them,” he later continued. “We could put them out in the woods wherever they came from, take them to Berks County and they’d get lost.”
“A staffer of mine said this morning that when she was out walking her dogs, she saw eight raccoons sitting on the corner outside her house,” Miller, who seemed especially sensitive to the animals’ presence, said. “So they’re everywhere that I know of in my district.”
“I don’t like those raccoons,” she said. “I think they look terrible
when you see them running down the street with their backs all hunched. I
didn’t grow up with raccoons. I never knew anything about a raccoon.
Now all of the sudden, we have raccoons … I don’t want to live with
raccoons. I haven’t learned how to live with wildlife and I don’t want to live with wildlife.”
“People can’t open their windows because they think they’re going to come through the screens … People see raccoons as a threat. They are afraid of them and don’t know a lot about them,” she said. “If we need to live with wildlife, they need to find their spot and leave us alone.”
“The point Councilman Clarke is trying to
make is that we get calls from people with raccoons next door asking
‘What do we do?’ and ‘What is the city going to do about it?'” Tasco said. “Nobody is
pissed at raccoons.”