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Catoctin zoo preparing to build home for raccoon

September 03, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

As Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo in Thurmont, Md., prepares to build a home for a domesticated Washington County raccoon, the animal's owner is still battling to get him back.

The plight of Onix, the longtime pet raccoon of Carrie "C.J." Giffin, appeared to be settled last month when the zoo agreed to accept the animal.

But Giffin, who took the raccoon in as a baby, said Wednesday she opposes letting Onix go.

"He's 131/2 years old and he has no business being in the zoo," she said.

In Maryland, it's illegal for people to keep wildlife - including raccoons - as pets.

On Aug. 5, the Humane Society of Washington County confiscated the raccoon from Giffin's home south of Keedysville. The humane society found out about the raccoon when he briefly escaped from his pen.

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When word that Onix could be euthanized spread through stories in The Herald-Mail, local readers and those in several other states offered Giffin good wishes and advice.

Hagerstown attorney Jerome Joyce promised to help Giffin, at no charge, keep the raccoon alive.

Joyce later said that a combination of federal, state and county laws looked too stringent for Giffin to get the raccoon back, so the zoo seemed like a good solution.

Giffin, though, wondered Wednesday if Joyce could have tried harder on her behalf.

She said two out-of-state attorneys who specialize in animal rights issues are researching how she can reclaim the raccoon.

Richard Hahn, the zoo's director, said Thursday he expects the zoo to finish a habitat for the raccoon by the end of the month.

He said the zoo will spend at least $1,000 to build a mostly wire-mesh enclosure of about 300 square feet. It will include a shallow pond so the raccoon can dip food in water, which is an innate trait, he said.

Hahn said the habitat could be grander if the zoo gets another $1,000 or so in contributions or other funding.

A donation fund has been set up at a Thurmont bank. A bank employee said checks should be made out to "The Onix Fund" and sent to Bank of America, PO Box 45, Thurmont, MD 21788.

Paul Miller, the humane society's executive director, has said the raccoon can stay at the humane society building for a while until the zoo builds a new habitat.

Although Giffin objects to sending Onix to the zoo, she said it's better than having him euthanized, which is allowed under Washington County's Animal Control Ordinance.

Miller has said he'd rather find the animal a suitable home than euthanize it. Before the agreement with the zoo, he looked into other possibilities, but they didn't work out because of other states' prohibitions on wildlife, he said.

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