A Chattanooga attorney who specializes in wildlife cases says there was no valid reason for health officials to have euthanized a pet raccoon belonging to a family in Monteagle.
Candace Bone said the family had owned "Boomer" for three years after getting her from an approved raccoon farm.
She said, "We are all devastated. He was just like a baby to us. Boomer slept between my husband and I and she would lift up her arms when she wanted to be picked up."
The action came after Boomer bit a neighbor boy who was at the Bone residence.
His parents sent him to the emergency room the next day and the Health Department was then called in.
A TWRA officer came to the Bone residence and took the raccoon. Then it was euthanized under a judge's order after a lengthy hearing.
Attorney Chris Jones said the boy nor the raccoon had shown any sign of rabies. He said Boomer was an "inside raccoon."
The attorney said, "Like someone having their child taken away by the government and killed, Mrs. Candace Bone and her family are devastated by the unnecessary death of her pet domesticated raccoon "Boomer," the Bone family has kept for the last three years. Mrs. Bone has suffered severe physical and emotional trauma having been terrorized by the TWRA and the Tennessee Department of Health's draconian agency actions.
"Boomer the raccoon is the state animal of Tennessee, and the Bones have been licensed to possess her by the TWRA for the last three years having been purchased in 2015 from a TWRA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licensed and regulated raccoon farm in Gainsboro, Tn., as 'livestock.'
"This all happened because on March 28 a 14-year-old boy was having dinner at the Bone's home and was playfully and superficially bitten by Boomer on the foot. The mother of the boy did not know Boomer was licensed and had been given shots for rabies, like dogs and cats.
"The mother took her bitten son to the local ER where doctors sought information from the TWRA and Department of Health. The ER doctor was ultimately telephone channeled to non medical doctors, a Nashville TWRA Law Enforcement Captain Walter Cook, and Department of Health Deputy Epidemiologist Veterinarian Dr. John Dunn.
"Both dramatically responded to the ER doctor that the raccoon could be rabid, therefore it had to be euthanized because that's the only way to test it for rabies, and there's no way to test the bite victim, which is untrue. CDC test strips INFRA could be used. At the hearing, the boy's father also testified his son had not experienced any signs of being infected with rabies, and that is still the case now almost three weeks later.
"Two days after the boy was taken to the ER, a TWRA game warden entered the Bone family home and threatened incarcerating Mr. Bone if he did not give him the raccoon. The TWRA and Department of Health provided no paper evidence justifying why they needed the raccoon, and left no paper evidence having taken Boomer away from the Bone family. The Bone family learned the game warden had driven the raccoon 90 miles away to a veterinarian in Chattanooga. The Bones desperately visited the veterinarian and asserted the raccoon was their private property, and to give it back.
"The veterinarian then refused to give the raccoon to the Department of Health without a court order. More than 10 days later the Department of Health filed a Petition for Emergency Health Measure in Grundy County requesting an emergency hearing for a court order to euthanize the raccoon and test it for rabies in the name of protecting the bitten boy.
"After a five-hour hearing on Friday, Grundy County General Sessions Judge Trey Anderson granted the Department of Health an order that an Emergency Health Threat to the Public did exist, and for the raccoon to be euthanized, decapitated and its brain tested for rabies - even though the state Rabies Manual allows livestock to be quarantined for 10 days for visual signs of rabies, which Boomer did not display. Dr. Dunn testified at the hearing, refusing to honor that the domesticated farmed raccoon was 'livestock' and needed to be euthanized for rabies testing.
"Also at the hearing, Dr. Dunn testified he has known about Center for Disease Control (CDC) rabies test strips being available to humans to learn if they are infected with rabies but has never considered making these test strips available to medical personnel in Tennessee to test people for rabies, even though these inexpensive test strips have been available on the market now for 10 years.
"Dr. Dunn acknowledged that each year the USDA uses airplanes and helicopters to litter Tennessee with millions of vanilla flavored rabies vaccine packets (Raboral VRG ) for raccoons to find and eat and become vaccinated against rabies."