NORTH JACKSON, Ohio (WKBN) – Jackie Hahner is used to double-takes when she’s out and about. It’s hard to avoid when you have a pet raccoon at your side.
And if you see a little raccoon head through a car window in North Jackson in Mahoning County, chances are, that’s Meela Rose.
“My car’s always got handprints going down the window, and she has a little plush car seat that she sits in,” Hahner said.
Hahner moved to North Jackson with her husband about four years ago and was walking her dogs in the woods when she found orphaned baby raccoons.
Like many, she thought raccoons were all rabid, but she helped rescue them and fell in love with the little furry creatures.
She bought her first raccoon, Munchie, from a breeder over two years ago and adopted her other two, Meela Rose and Thor, from previous owners.
When Hahner was fighting cancer last year, she said Meela was her biggest comfort when her husband wasn’t around.
“She just brought ease to the situation. She snuggled me. She’d pet my head, kiss me, give me little love bites,” Hahner said.
All of her raccoons are from a licensed breeder. They’re fixed, have their rabies shots, and are registered with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
She cautions anyone who is interested in getting one as a pet that they take a lot of work, and they are still wild animals.
“You have to be prepared to have things get ruined. They’re destructive. Or, to be bit, have scratches,” she said.
Officer Tom Frank, with ODNR, said to make sure you get any exotic pet from a registered breeder, as well as get a license from the state.
“You cannot just go out and take a baby raccoon, or a baby fox, or a baby deer from the wild,” he said.
Frank said Hahner isn’t the only one in the area with pet raccoons, but he cautions you to do your research before spending your money.
“Just because you’re licensed doesn’t necessarily mean that the business or where you live is going to allow you to have that wild animal,” he said.