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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – A woman in South Carolina has started a petition as part of her fight to keep a pet raccoon that the state considers a risk to public health.

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Christy Mills rescued Bandit, a raccoon, at 4 weeks old in May 2020, WSPA reported. Mills told the station that since then, the animal has become a part of her family.

Mills admitted to WSPA that Bandit bit somebody in May, but said the victim had entered her home without being invited inside.

In a statement, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said the animal had “reportedly bit several individuals” and issued a notice and order requiring Mills to surrender Bandit to be tested for rabies. The agency noted that raccoons are the primary carrier of rabies in South Carolina.

“He has been vaccinated. Even though there’s no study yet that’s been proven that this vaccine works on raccoons,” Mills told WSPA.

Mills told WYFF that the DHEC had left multiple notices on her door requiring her to surrender Bandit so that he can be euthanized and tested for rabies. According to the law, while dogs, cats and ferrets can go through a quarantine period after an incident to be monitored for rabies, all other animals, including raccoons, must be euthanized immediately to be tested.

Mills has created an online petition asking for the law to be updated to protect raccoons, as well as to look into whether the rabies vaccine is effective in raccoons.

According to the notices from DHEC, Mills could face legal action if she does not surrender Bandit.

“Or face 30 days in jail and pay a fine,” Mills told WYFF. “I told them I am not giving them my raccoon, to let me know when I need to turn myself in and I would go do that.”

Mills told WSPA that Bandit is no longer in South Carolina, but did not say where he was.

“We want Bandit home. … I mean, I’ve had to get a burner phone. I mean the craziest things to be able to check on this baby,” Mills told WSPA.