A woman has been charged with three crimes after she took a raccoon called Rocky to a bar in North Dakota.
Erin Christensen faces up to two years in prison and a $7,500 fine after she took the raccoon to Maddock Bar for happy hour on 6 September.
A bartender said no one was bitten by Rocky during the visit, but the outing nevertheless prompted a health scare, with North Dakota’s health and human services department issuing a warning about possible rabies exposure.
Christensen, 38, was arrested last week afterauthorities found her and the raccoon by serving several search warrants in and around Maddock, in the north of the state.
She told the Bismarck Tribune that police “brought a battering ram to break down the front door of the house” after they finally located her and Rocky.
Christensen described it as “a shock-and-awe campaign”.
She has been charged with providing false information to law enforcement, tampering with physical evidence, and unlawful possession of furbearers.
Christensen said her family found Rocky on the side of a road about three months ago. She said they were nursing the raccoon back to health, and planned to release him back into the wild.
Instead, Rocky was euthanized after his capture. He tested negative for rabies.
In cities and towns raccoons, which have remarkably dextrous front paws, are known as scavengers who will frequently trawl through trash cans for food.
In the wild, however, raccoons enjoy eating fruits, seeds, nuts, birds’ eggs and plants.
According to National Geographic Kids, raccoons “are also excellent swimmers, hunting fish, frogs, and crayfish”.
It is legal to own a raccoon as a pet in some states in the US, including Florida, although frequently the raccoons must not have been taken in from the wild.
Raccoon ownership is illegal in North Dakota, but Christensen described Rocky’s plight as “unfair”.
“Too much was done to detain an innocent raccoon,” she told the Tribune.
“They were not worried about the health of us if we had rabies or not. They were worried about finding and killing Rocky and putting me behind bars.”
Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, kept a raccoon called Rebecca as a pet during his time in the White House.
Rebecca was presented to Coolidge in 1926 by a Mississippi supporter who suggested the president eat the raccoon. Instead, the family “fell in love with her”, according to the White House Historical Association website.
One of Rebecca’s favorite pastimes was “playing in a partly filled bathtub with a cake of soap,” Grace Coolidge, the first lady, would later reminisce.
When the Coolidges left the White House in 1929, they sent Rebecca to the Rock Creek Zoo, according to the White House Historical Association, because they wanted her to live with other raccoons.
Raccoons live for about one to three years in the wild, National Geographic Kids said, but in captivity some raccoons have lived for up to 20 years.