With the arrival of a carbon dioxide euthanasia chamber, Riverhead’s animal control personnel will halt the practice of clubbing sick raccoons to death, Police Chief David Hegermiller told the News-Review Tuesday in immediate response to public complaints from animal rights activists at a Town Board meeting.
Both the clubbing practice and the carbon dioxide chamber were brought up at the 2 p.m. meeting by Sue Hansen, a former Riverhead Animal Shelter volunteer and outspoken critic of the town’s animal control practices.
In response to Ms. Hansen’s question, Councilman Jim Wooten said he’d been alerted to the fact that sick raccoons were being clubbed and had looked into the matter. He said he learned that the county Department of Health Services does list clubbing as an acceptable method of killing sick wildlife, but that a carbon monoxide chamber was preferred.
Neither approach sat well with some animal lovers.
“Killing is not the way to be dealing with this,” said resident Sandra Mott, who said she has rescued sick animals herself. “There’s got to be a different solution.”
Ms. Mott had just told the Town Board that embattled animal control officer Lou Coronesi has always been nice to her.
After hearing about the clubbing, she said, “I withdraw my comment.”
“State law says you don’t have to kill every raccoon that comes in,” said Connie Farr of Calverton, who was part of a group of residents who recently called for a district attorney investigation into the town’s animal control practices — and for Mr. Coronesi’s dismissal.
Chief Hegermiller told a reporter after the meeting that if a wild animal is sick, the town has no other option but to kill it. Sick raccoons that are killed are then sent to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for evaluation, he said.
“We had one recently that was hit by a car and then bit someone,” he said.
Shooting the animals is not recommended because you don’t want the blood to splatter if they are diseased, he explained.
The town purchased the carbon dioxide unit within the past two weeks, he said, and once it’s up and running will no longer club sick wildlife.
Mr. Wooten said the town is building the chamber and is awaiting the delivery of the CO2 unit, which he said costs about $30 to $40. He said he first heard about the clubbing practice from Gail Waller, the Glen Cove woman who has donated money to help animals in the Riverhead shelter and who has been critical of shelter practices.