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Woman says she gives up fight to keep pet raccoon

August 13, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Carrie "C.J." Giffin has given up on reuniting with Onix, her pet raccoon.

On Thursday, seven days after the Humane Society of Washington County confiscated the raccoon, Giffin decided that continuing to fight was futile.

"We've come to the dead end," she said, holding back tears during a telephone interview.

However, the humane society will continue looking for a suitable home for the raccoon, Executive Director Paul Miller said.

Miller explained that Giffin has until Aug. 18 - 10 days after the confiscation, excluding days the humane society is closed - to legally claim or find a home for the raccoon.

After that deadline passes, Washington County's Animal Control Ordinance allows the humane society as much time as it wants to look for a home for the raccoon, he said.

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The humane society also could euthanize the raccoon. Again, the ordinance does not impose a time limit, Miller said.

It's illegal in Maryland for people to keep wildlife as pets. Giffin, 54, said she knew that when she took Onix in as a baby 13 years ago, so she kept him in a pen away from the public.

Recently, Onix got out of the pen and the humane society took him.

Giffin, who lives south of Keedysville with her husband, Carlos, said she exhausted her possibilities on Thursday.

She looked into sending the raccoon to live with a daughter in West Virginia until she found out she couldn't get a permit there.

In West Virginia, someone can get an importation permit for a wild animal, then get a license to keep it in captivity, said Lt. Col. Bill Daniel, the deputy chief of law enforcement for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

But West Virginia won't issue a license if the wildlife was held illegally in another state, he said.

If someone illegally keeps a wild animal in another state, then takes it across a border into West Virginia, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intervenes and "the penalties grow and grow," Daniel said.

On Thursday - two days after sending a desperate e-mail to President and Mrs. Bush - Giffin called the office of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., for assistance.

Lisa Wright, a spokeswoman for Bartlett, later left a message with The Herald-Mail saying the case is not a federal matter and he couldn't get involved.

Giffin said the setbacks deflated her. "I guess I cried for well over an hour afterward. ... I doubt very much I'm going to get to see him again," she said.

Miller said the humane society is looking into wildlife refuges all over.

One early idea was to send the raccoon to Wilson's Wild Animal Park in Winchester, Va.

But park owner Keith Wilson said it would be an ordeal for him to take in the raccoon. He said Virginia lets people obtain permits to keep wild animals, but getting one requires "almost an act of Congress."

On Wednesday, attorney Jerome Joyce offered, at no charge, to help Giffin get a federal educator permit when he returns next week from a trip.

In the meantime, attorney Wiley Rutledge investigated options for Giffin on Thursday.

In a statement he released through his office, Rutledge said, "Everybody is working hard at finding a solution."

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