A woman who brought a wild raccoon into a North Dakota bar, which prompted state health officials to issue a warning about potential rabies exposure, is facing criminal charges.
Erin Christensen, 38, of Maddock, is charged with misdemeanor counts of providing false information to law enforcement, tampering with physical evidence and unlawful possession of furbearers.
Christensen was arrested last week after authorities found her and the raccoon by serving several search warrants in and around Maddock.
Christensen said her family found the raccoon on the side of a road about three months ago and named it Rocky. She said they were nursing the animal back to health with plans to release it back into the wild.
It’s illegal under North Dakota Board of Animal Health laws to keep a wild raccoon. Authorities euthanized the animal, and it tested negative for rabies.
Christensen took Rocky to Maddock Bar on Sept. 6 during happy hour and showed the raccoon to customers. Bartender Cindy Smith said the animal never bit anyone at the bar.
Nevertheless, North Dakota’s Health and Human Services Department issued a warning asking anyone who may have been bitten or had contact with the raccoon’s saliva to seek medical care.
“It’s unfair and too much was done to detain an innocent raccoon,” Christensen said in a Wednesday statement to the Bismarck Tribune. “They were not worried about the health of us if we had rabies or not. They were worried about finding and killing Rocky and putting me behind bars.”
The charges against Christensen carry a maximum punishment of about two years in jail and $7,500 in fines. Her initial court appearance is set for Monday.
Maddock is town of about 500 people located about 85 miles (137 kilometers) from the Canadian border.