Exotic pet rescued from Walthamstow ditch

Raccoon dog later named after potato-eating pop star

Raccoon dog

The raccoon dog after being found in a Walthamstow ditch

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has issued a warning about keeping exotic pets after a raccoon dog was rescued from a ditch in Walthamstow.

An officer from the animal rights charity was called out to reports of a badger being stuck in a hole at an industrial estate in Blackhorse Lane but upon arrival found a raccoon dog, a species native to east Asia.

Animal collection officer Joe White said: “I was fairly taken aback at first. I was expecting to see a badger and then the head of this very unusual raccoon dog popped up.

“They have similar colouring so I can see where the mistake happened, but they are a completely different animal.

“Who knows how long he had been down there – he was very thin so potentially a while – or how he got there. We are seeing more and more cases of raccoon dogs being kept as pets in the UK, but they are more difficult to care for than many people realise so he could well have been abandoned after the owner decided they couldn’t cope or simply had enough.

“It was a struggle to rescue him as the walls of this hole – a kind of collapsed sewer – were very steep and sheer. Eventually with specialist equipment I managed to coax him up the sides and he is now receiving the care he needs.”

The hole in a Blackhorse Lane industrial estate from where the raccoon dog was rescued

The hole in a Blackhorse Lane industrial estate from where the raccoon dog was rescued

The raccoon dog was very underweight and poorly, but was taken to South Essex Wildlife Hospital, in Orsett. Following the incident last week he was renamed Brian, after local 90s pop star Brian Harvey, and is now being nursed back to health. It is hoped that a new home in a specialist centre can be found for him when he has recovered.

Llewelyn Lowen, wildlife information officer for the RSPCA, said: “It was very lucky for all kinds of reasons that this raccoon dog was found by the security guard in this out-of-the-way spot on an industrial site.

“Firstly, there is no way he would have been able to get out of that deep hole without help and could have starved to death and suffered a great deal. Also, as he had been kept as an exotic pet he was not used to having to fend for himself.

“In addition, it is illegal to release these unusual animals to the wild in the UK as they are a non-native species and can be invasive and do damage to the environment.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned about the trend of keeping raccoon dogs as pets in the UK as we have in recent years dealt with a number of cases where the animals have either escaped, or been deliberately released to the wild.

“Sadly they appear to be growing in popularity as pets, possibly due to their appealing looks and the misinformed view that they are less difficult to look after than dogs, and are being sold for as little as £150 on internet websites.

“We urge people to think hard about taking on the care of any exotic pet – they can be much more difficult to care for than people realise.”

For information and guidance on keeping and caring for exotic pets:

Visit rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/other