An unusual pair showed up in the pre-dawn hours at Fire Station 82 in Wayne Township, Indiana, last week.
Repeatedly pressing the doorbell was a frantic woman. In her arms was a furry, masked animal that firefighters later described as "lethargic," fire department spokesman Michael Pruitt said.
Through her panic, the woman divulged that it was a pet raccoon – and that it was severely stoned.
"We typically love to help, especially when it comes to animals. We have a lot of animal lovers in the fire service," Pruitt said in an interview. "But in this case, they just recommended, 'Hey, the raccoon is going to have to sleep it off.' "
The woman, whose name the firefighters did not take, said the raccoon had gotten into someone else's pot. Marijuana use is not legal in any form in Indiana, leading Pruitt to joke that the animal had, perhaps, "moved from Colorado, and he didn't know."
While a baked raccoon at a fire station is unusual, pets on pot hardly are. As more states legalize marijuana and tantalizing edible forms become more available, veterinarians say they are seeing major increases in patients that have ingested it. These are most often dogs, and their trips are very rarely fatal. In most cases, veterinarians say, the firefighters' advice is sound: Animals must simply wait it out.
The Wayne Township Fire Department's 2 a.m. experience with the raccoon, which it posted about on Facebook, drew national attention – as well as notice from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Pruitt said. It wanted to know whether the woman had a permit to keep the critter, as is required by state law. (Regulations also state that raccoon-keepers must provide their pets with creature comforts including a "nest box or sheltered retreat," branches for climbing and a wading pool or water container.) The firefighters did not have that information.
"We're not in the business of policing who has permits for their animals and who does not," Pruitt said, adding, "We do not expect her or the raccoon to come out of the woodwork to claim credit for the story."
Raccoons can be purchased from exotic-animal dealers, and some pet raccoons have become Instagram stars. But wildlife and veterinary experts warn that they do not typically make great companions. They can carry diseases, they are not easily house-trained, and their dexterous little hands are excellent at breaking into things – like, say, a stash of weed.