Pet owners warned as outbreak of raccoons infected with distemper grows in Kokomo

HOWARD COUNTY, Ind. - Kokomo animal care and control workers are reporting a bizarre surge in the number of raccoons infected with a highly-contagious disease that could make your pets sick.

As of Friday, workers at the Kokomo Humane Society had captured 46 sick raccoons infected with distemper. Last year, only ten infected raccoons were reported and caught.

"It’s a pretty big increase," said animal care and control officer Bryar Schroeter. He took FOX59 out on a sick raccoon call. A resident reported a raccoon trying to get into her garage and then saw it fall over.

"Here in a couple of weeks he won't even be able to move hardly," he told her.

Distemper is a highly-contagious disease spread among animals. It can make raccoons lethargic, confused, wander aimlessly or even suffer seizures.

"I’ve had a few that were, almost looked like they were drunk," explained Schroeter. "I mean they were staggering all over the place. You have to kind of run up to them and catch them real quick."

Because there is no cure, the infected raccoons are euthanized. Humane Society Director Karen Wolfe is warning pet owners to make sure their dogs and cats are vaccinated.

"If your pet isn't vaccinated and gets bit, then there isn't much survival rate with that," said Wolfe.

No one seems to have an exact answer to what's causing the spike, although Wolfe said there is a theory floating around town that the recent Kokomo tornado may have stressed out the animals and made them more susceptible to infection.

Schroeter said, that doesn't right since he's been catching sick raccoons all year. He and Wolfe think it's just nature at work.

"We had a lot of raccoons," said Wolfe. "There’s feline distemper or canine distemper and they get that and pass it around, and so we have a lot of sick raccoons.”