Warning: This story contains graphic images
Gina Chiarelli never thought a raccoon could be so vicious.
The East Vancouver woman is still recovering physically and emotionally after one of the animals attacked her last Saturday, leaving her shaken and bloody.
Now she’s speaking out, warning neighbours that the wild animals are just that: wild.
LISTEN: Gina Chiarelli recounts her raccoon attack to Steele & Drex
“I really did think it was going to kill me because I just could not get it off me,” Chiarelli told CKNW’s Steele & Drex.
The attack happened just before 3:30 p.m., near East Georgia Street and Victoria Drive.
Chiarelli was taking Rocky, her 15-pound Maltese dog, out for a pee in the backyard.
In the space of about four seconds, the raccoon shot out from under her deck and had Rocky’s head in its jaws.
Chiarelli said her immediate reaction was to lift the dog in the air, but she couldn’t.
“The raccoon was locked on. So I was shaking him, hitting the raccoon with my other free hand trying to get him off the dog without any success. So then I just started slamming both of them into the deck to try to get the raccoon off,” she said.
Eventually, the animal relented long enough for her to pull the dog free.
But with Rocky out of harm’s way, the raccoon shifted its attention.
“At that point the raccoon just turned on me, and began biting me and scratching me relentlessly. I literally could not get away.”
Chiarelli said that 15 minutes of agony followed.
The raccoon was biting and clawing at her legs and thighs while she tried to make her way back to the house, all the while trying to fight it off and screaming for help.
But no one came — all of her neighbours away on vacation, Chiarelli said.
Eventually she made it 30 feet back to the back of the house, and after knocking the animal free, stumbled into her kitchen and slammed the door.
“There was blood all over the deck, there was blood all over the floor of the house. It was just beyond comprehension.”
Click to see Chiarelli’s injuries (Warning: Graphic images)
A ‘child would have been dead’
In the wake of the attack, Chiarelli called 911 and received medical attention.
The attack left her badly scratched up and down her legs and inner thighs; she had 12 puncture bite wounds and needed 10 stitches and a tetanus shot.
She initially didn’t want to talk about the incident – but after thinking about how many kids live in her neighbourhood, decided it was better to spread the word.
“If I had been a child, that child would have been dead. And there’s no question about that.”
Chiarelli said she called animal control, which checked the yard and found no signs of babies or a nest. They recommended that she seal the space under her deck more tightly.
She feels nervous knowing that the animal is still out there, but all she can do is to take precautions and be aware that, even in the city, people still live alongside animals.
“I mean, we are cohabiting with these animals. So I guess we can only do as much as we can and then be as careful as we’re able to be, considering that’s the reality of our environment here,” she said.