Mysterious Illness Affecting Wildlife Forcing Police To Shoot, Kill Animals; Neighbors Worried For Their Pets

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ROSS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Some people who live in Ross Township say something strange is going on with wildlife in the area. They are concerned and wondering if it could also affect them.

Barbara Leininger, who lives in the area, says she’s very worried.

“That there is a disease going around,” she said. “Could it be transmitted to people or our pets?”

This has been going on for about a week in the area of Rodenbaugh Avenue. There have been raccoons and groundhogs coming out of the woods behind the houses that appear sick.

Karene Meyer says each time, police are called.

“They seem to be sick, doesn’t seem to be rabies. The reason why they are saying they are sick is because they are not responding, moving or running away from them and they are listless. It’s like they are dying,” said Meyer.

Ross Township Police say 38 animals were euthanized in August, and so far in September, 28 have been euthanized. Many of the animals are sick raccoons and groundhogs.

But that creates another problem, a foul odor. Ross police say they aren’t allowed to transport the dead carcasses in their vehicles. They contract with a company that will haul them away, but they have been killing so many, it is difficult to keep up.

“It was smelling like something dead. I had a whiff of it in my garage. It’s not in my garage, because I tore it up looking, and it got smellier when we went outside, and it smelled up the whole neighborhood,” Deborah Langhorne, a neighbor, said.

So what is making the animals sick?

Ross Township Police think it could be an oral rabies vaccine that state and county agencies have placed in wooded areas, either on foot, or dropped from low-flying planes or helicopters.

KDKA’s Brenda Waters spoke with a representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program who said the rabies vaccine has been used since 1995, and is not known to cause any adverse effects.

The Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, and the Allegheny County Health Department are working with Ross Township Police to test deceased animals for disease.

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