Five raccoon dogs have joined Sparsholt’s extensive Exotic Animal Collection of 1,200 animals from 200 different species. Raccoon dogs, originally from East Asia, have become a novelty exotic pet in recent years despite their complex needs. After being rescued by the RSPCA they were re-homed in a newly-built enclosure within the Animal Management Centre.
For six months, students worked hard to prepare the enclosure to make sure it was an appropriate environment for the species with plenty of dens, planting and thickets. The species will be useful in teaching students the issues around the exotic pet trade and invasive species. Students will also be able to study the raccoon dogs’ behaviour as part of the projects they complete.
Head of Exotics at Sparsholt College, Gary said: “We are very pleased to provide a new home for these ex-pet raccoon dogs as part of the animal collection we maintain here for teaching and training. Our animal management students have grafted for months to prepare the enclosure for them – burying mesh underground, building lots of dens, planting shrubs and grasses, and even making them a pond and roof terrace to enjoy!
“Already, three students have begun projects on their behaviour, using night cameras to see what goes on after dark. Next we’ll be training the raccoon dogs to allow us to do things like flea treatments without having to restrain them. So, lots of scope for student learning, and the animals will gain by being kept occupied with all the attention. We look forward to discovering more about these wonderful little animals over the coming years.”
Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA Senior Scientific Officer in Exotics and Wildlife Trade, said: “These raccoon dogs were all rescued by our officers as strays and we suspect they’d once been kept as pets before being abandoning or escaping from their homes.
“Unfortunately, our officers find raccoon dogs are being kept as ‘pets’ but they often become unwanted when owners realise that they cannot properly care for them or because they become aggressive or unmanageable. We’ve been called to collect raccoon dogs found straying in people’s gardens and those being kept in tiny enclosures or with the family dog – none of which are appropriate for these complex wild animals.
“We’re so pleased we were able to introduce and integrate these five individuals into a bonded group and it’s wonderful to see them settling in so well at their new home at Sparsholt College. We hope this group will help to educate people on these fascinating creatures and also help to raise awareness of why they are not suitable as pets.”
A further £2 million investment in Animal Health and Welfare facilities is planned to be opened in early 2020. The phase four development of the Animal Collection, Animal Health, Welfare and Behaviour Centre, will add to the range of techniques, skills and industry know-how of the students.