A STRAY raccoon has joined the ranks of snakes, lizards, a bull frog and dozens of other exotic animals that have been seized by an animal welfare charity.
The male raccoon was rescued by the DSPCA after it was found in the back garden of a family home in south Dublin.
The creature was said to be in a distressed state when captured by officers from the animal welfare authority and remains in the possession of the DSPCA as no one has come forward to claim it.
A spokesperson said it was assumed the mammal, which is native to North America, had escaped from a house where someone had been keeping it as a pet and that an investigation was now under way to determine where the raccoon had come from.
"We assume it was being kept as a pet by someone but the problem with any exotic animal is where it has come from and how it got into the country. Has it come through the correct quarantine facilities? Or has it been bred in captivity in the country?" DSPCA spokesperson Gillian Bird told the Irish Independent.
"We're investigating all those possibilities now," she added.
She said the animal would be reunited with its owner if someone comes forward to claim the raccoon, provided they can prove he was brought here legally or was born here.
There are strict laws governing the sale and import of exotic animals under the current 1911 animal welfare legislation, while there are also alerts frequently issued for potentially invasive animals discovered here that could breed and damage native species if released.
"Raccoons were previously put on the invasive species alert a number of years ago when one was found in Co Clare," Ms Bird said. She added that exotic animals were routinely seized by the DSPCA.
"We also have a bull frog at the moment which are a very invasive species as well as a couple of species of lizards. This week alone there have a been a number of cases of 'stray snake'.
"I'd say we probably get about 15-25 stray snakes a year."