TORONTO - Residents of a Toronto neighbourhood awoke to horrifying sounds early Wednesday morning after a man allegedly attacked a family of raccoons with a shovel.
Toronto police say a man faces weapons and animal cruelty charges after officers were called to a home in the Bloor Street and Lansdowne Avenue area around 5:50 a.m.
Const. Victor Kwong says neighbours reported someone was attacking the raccoons in a backyard with a garden shovel.
Kwong says one of the baby raccoons was severely injured and it was originally thought the animal might have to be put down.
But an animal services official reports the baby suffered some broken toes and is being taken to a wildlife rehabilitation centre to recover.
"While this man was hitting the raccoons with a shovel, the mother raccoon was taking the other injured babies away," Kwong said, citing witness reports. "As for the other baby raccoons, we don't know (how they are) because the mother took them away."
After the incident, animal control officers looked for the other injured raccoons but couldn't immediately find them.
Dong Nguyen, 53, is charged with cruelty to animals and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
He was released and will appear in court July 13.
Fiona Venedam, a supervisor with Toronto Animal Services, says the one baby that was rescued was about one to two months old. Despite fears the raccoon's foot was broken, it now appears only some toes may be broken.
"He's a feisty little guy," Venedam said Wednesday afternoon.
Raccoons are a common sight in Toronto, especially at nighttime and during the early morning hours. But their nesting and foraging habits have earned them the wrath of many a homeowner and gardener.
Const. Wendy Drummond of Toronto police says people concerned about raccoons should ensure garbage — an easy food source — is not left outside where animals can get into it.
Lawns infested with grubs can also be "a feeding ground" for raccoons, so steps should be taken to get rid of them. Repellents such as pure soap flakes, diluted ammonia or diluted Tabasco sauce can be used around fruits and vegetables in the gardens.
"Ensure your property is well-maintained and make it an unattractive site for them to call home," Drummond said.
If those steps don't solve the problem, "There are services that you can hire to deal with the issue," she suggested.
Putting out poison, using firearms or using certain types of traps to deal with pests could bring criminal charges and fines of up to $5,000.
The maximum sentence for someone convicted of cruelty to animals is two years while conviction on a weapons dangerous charge can bring a sentence of up to 10 years.
Toronto Animal Services warns that raccoons are a major carrier of rabies in Ontario. People should stay away from wild animals, especially if they appear tame, injured or sick.
Facts and tips for city dwellers on dealing with raccoons and other wildlife can be found on the City of Toronto website at www.toronto.ca/animal_services/proof.htm