To the Editor,
Those who don’t know me might have read letters to the Massena Courier editor two years ago when I was one of the dog wardens in the Town of Potsdam. My daughter and I assisted an old freezing cocker spaniel rescue in the winter in Brasher.
I chose that job for my love of animals. I even refused to do any of the law enforcement and chose to stick to strays and rescues. I believe there are two types of animal lovers. The first one is your everyday animal lover and the second one is what I call the extreme animal lover who would do anything to save a defenseless, helpless, starving baby animal.
Unfortunately, my daughter Amber and I fall into this category. Now that you know a little about me, I would like to share a very sad story with you.
On June 4, I encountered two baby raccoons who were trying to find something to eat out of a styrofoam food container someone had thrown out. I slowly drove up and rolled my window down. I fully expected them to run back in the woods.
To my surprise, they ran under my truck and climbed into the rear axel area. I had to stop my truck, turn it off and retrieve them from underneath the vehicle. I put them into the bed and they hid under a tarp. I searched the area for anymore, and to see if the mother was around.
I could tell they were starving. My friend had a small hobby farm up the road. We placed them in a cage at my friend’s house and did some research on feeding and caring for them. My intentions were to turn them over to a wildlife rehabilitator.
For two days I called every number we could find, and there was no one that could take them. My feelings were: If I turned them over to the Department of Environmental Conservation they would either let them go or kill them. My daughter and I researched everything we could on raising raccoons for release. From June 4-19 we bottle fed the boys four times per day, we de-fleaed them and wormed them with special kitten formula.
They doubled in size and we purchased a rabbit hutch. We limited human contact so they could be released back to the wild. Anyone that has fostered baby animals and had to bottle feed knows how time consuming it is. The boys were really healthy and we were starting to introduce them to foods they would find like vegetables and berries.
I started building an enclosure with hopes that I could release them at the proper time.
Unfortunately, we revealed them to a few people we felt we could trust. On June 19, 15 days after finding the baby coons, an officer from the DEC showed up in our driveway.
He stated, “We got a phone call from the St. Lawrence County Board of Health saying you had a couple raccoons.” He said they received a phone call from someone and couldn’t reveal their name.
I asked him, “What are your going to do with them if I turn them over to you?”
“We will take them to the vet, and when they are declared healthy, they will be turned over to an animal rehabilitator,” he said.
Although my daughter and I were sad, we were excited that they would be given a chance at survival. like every baby animal deserves. My daughter received information that night that the raccoons were at the vets and eventually taken to a rehabilitator. The next day, I received a message on my answering machine to call the county board of health. I returned the call and was told the raccoons did not have rabies.
I asked how they found that out and the woman stated, “ I am sorry Mr. LaShomb, but we had to euthanize them to find out.”
Words can never explain how devastated I was. My daughter and I raised those little boys by bottle and fed them back to health. They were well over the 10-day quarantine for rabies and never showed any signs of sickness. They never tried to bite us. We had 15 days of blood, sweat and tears into those little guys. If it sounds like I’m angry, it’s because I am probably the angriest I’ve been in my 59 years on this planet. My daughter and I feel extremely betrayed and lied too. My daughter angrily called the board of health to question them on why they had to do that.
We had them for 15 days and knew they didn’t have rabies. Speaking to the board was like talking to someone with a heart made of ice. She was the perfect spokesperson for the board. Her answers for my highly upset daughter were, “They are a carrier of rabies. We could have given you a citation. Why don’t you become a wildlife rehabilitator if you love animals so much?”
My daughter told her rehabilitators get no financial help. They get no county money, no state money, no federal money and no grant money. Then they are expected to get a bunch of permits and inspections. It’s no wonder they can’t keep any.
As far as the DEC goes, where is the conservation in taking two perfectly healthy baby raccoons and knowingly lie to obtain them and kill them?
I though a conservation officer was sworn to protect our natural resources. Are our animals not part of our natural resources?
To the person who turned us in: You might have thought your were doing the right thing, you may even be an animal lover, but now you’ll have to live with the fact that you were the cause of two beautiful, healthy little creatures being turned over to killers. In turn you tore the heart out of a 59-year-old man and his 25-year-old daughter. What did you accomplish?
After this letter, I fully expected to be cited for harboring a wild animal by the DEC. Might as well pour salt in the wounds.
Thanks for reading my long sad story.
David LaShomb. Norwood