A viral video of Coeymans, New York police running over a rabid raccoon is under scrutiny.
Videos posted on social media show a marked Town of Coeymans Police Department SUV and an unmarked car running down the animal Monday in the Faith Plaza parking lot in Ravena. A post on Facebook said the vehicles charged at the raccoon for 15 minutes before it died. Officers were at the strip mall responding to calls of a raccoon believed to be rabid. At one point, they say, it tried to enter a business.
Footage posted to Facebook has been viewed by 7 million people. Todd Cramer is president and CEO of Mohawk Hudson Humane Society. "It's the public that is reaching out and making their voices heard. And you know there's no silver lining in this situation, but it's very heartwarming to see the level of concern that the public has. It really speaks to how the residents of the Capital Region are true animal lovers through and through, that they love all animals and are concerned about their welfare.”
Concerned people across the country googling the Coeymans police telephone number were instead getting Albany County 911, which has fielded hundreds of calls. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple told the Times Union he fears those calls could cause dispatchers to miss an emergency.
That mounting concern has driven the Coeymans Police Department to Facebook to defend its actions, stating in part that officers who found the animal were "...not in an area that was safe to discharge a firearm due to the proximity of pedestrians and residences. They dispatched the raccoon as quickly and humanely as possible."
Interim Chief Daniel Contento tells Spectrum News: "We can understand this was not easy to watch, but the town of Coeymans police officers acted without malice or contempt, and acted only in the public's wellbeing in mind."
The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society also took to social media, saying it was appalled. Again, Todd Cramer. "This is two parts. This is a compassion issue. And with that comes the education issue. We have been in contact with the sheriff's department and other entities to discuss offering training for municipalities in the near future so that they know how to handle these situations.”
Sheriff Apple told the Times Union that "officers also need to know someone is always watching and will likely report any inhumane treatment of an animal."
Jill Montag, a Public Information Officer with the New York State Department of Health, responded to a request for comment by email, saying "we wanted to let you know that DOH tested the raccoon for rabies and it was indeed rabid."
The Albany County DA's office said in a statement that the state Department of Environmental Conservation "has started an investigation and our ACT Animal Cruelty Taskforce will be contacting them."