Raccoon attacks woman walking in Owings Mills Tests for rabies incomplete, but victim opts for shots

September 06, 1991|By Deborah I. Greene

Lisa Griffith used to delight at seeing an occasional deer or rabbit, but not any more.

Since being attacked Wednesday afternoon by a raccoon in an Owings Mills parking lot, the 30-year-old Anne Arundel County woman fears any wild animal.

Mrs. Griffith was walking from her van to a job interview at the Catalyst Research Division of Mine Safety Appliance Co. on Crondall Lane when she felt the sharp pain of tiny razors tearing her right calf. Then she saw that the razors were the teeth of a brown ball of fur.

"It was a nightmare," the Hanover woman said yesterday while recuperating from deep gashes in her right arm and leg. "I felt like I was going to die."

Mrs. Griffith opted to undergo painful rabies shots even though tests to determine if the raccoon was infected are not complete, and she must remain in bed for two weeks. Her husband has taken time off from his job to care for their two preschool-age daughters.

She said the raccoon's aggressive behavior made her suspect that it was infected with the virus, which a state health department authority said has plagued the state in epidemic proportions for more than a decade.

"Animals are supposed to be afraid of people," Mrs. Griffith said. "They're suppose to run away if they bite you, not hold on. But that raccoon clamped down on my arm and wouldn't let go."

Mrs. Griffith said she screamed and flailed her arms in an effort to loosen the raccoon's grip, but it hung from her wrist as she ran nearly 100 feet to the building.

The sight of her wrestling 2 feet of ferocious fur startled several employees.

Mrs. Griffith finally freed herself by flinging the raccoon against a pair of glass doors that enclosed the foyer. She fled through another set of doors, the animal remaining in the entrance.

Trapped, the raccoon scurried around the foyer, clawed the walls and dug into a carpet, shredding its edge.

Employees called an ambulance, which took Mrs. Griffith to Baltimore County General Hospital, where she was treated and released. A county animal control captured the raccoon and killed it.

Employees at the company confirmed Mrs. Griffith's account of the incident but declined to comment for the record.

Julia Mitchner, chief of the state health department's rabies and vector-borne disease division, said that if the raccoon is found to be rabid, it will be the 16th case of rabies reported in Baltimore County this year -- far fewer than in previous years.

In 1985, at the height of the epidemic, 244 rabid animals were reported in Baltimore County and more than 7,000 throughout the state.

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