Rabid otter ‘latched on and wouldn’t let go,’ Jupiter man says
A 74-year-old Jupiter man, recovering from an attack by a rabid river otter, is recounting how the critter sent him to the hospital.
Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control said they haven't seen a case like this in more than a decade.
WFLX spoke with the victim, Joe Scaglione, and his neighbors to learn more about this rare occurrence.
Scaglione said he is a self-professed animal lover
"My wife and I always loved animals," Scaglione said. "We always had pets."
His backyard is a place where he spends a lot of his time alongside ibises, bluejays and ducks.
However, last week he got a guest that no one in the neighborhood was expecting — a rabid otter coming right for him.
"I didn't turn my back because it's a bad idea to turn your back on a wild animal," Scaglione said. "It kept lunging forward."
His wife Ana heard the commotion and screaming from inside their home.
"I saw him full of blood and I said, 'Oh my God,' and then I started screaming, 'Please, somebody help us,'" Ana Scaglione said.
Luckily their neighbor next door also heard the cries for help and rushed Scaglione to the hospital, but not before he said he was bitten more than 40 times on his hands, wrist and legs.
"He grabbed me by in between the index finger and the thumb, and he latched on and wouldn't let go," Joe Scaglione said. "So, I grabbed him by the throat with my left hand and I said, 'Rabid animal, I gotta kill him.'"
The otter escaped from there, continuing its rampage just down the street, biting a family's dog.
"Oh, it was so cute. We didn't want it to be rabid, but it just looked like there was something wrong with the way it was acting," Jupiter resident Susan Brandt said.
Brandt described the otter as walking with difficulty and convulsing several times. The animal slipped out of the grasp of neighbors, just moments away from another possible attack.
Residents searched for the otter, which eventually ended in a driveway where neighbors were able to trap it in a recycling bin, and under two cinder blocks, while they waited for Animal Care and Control to arrive.
An animal control officer eventually captured the otter. The Florida Department of Health later confirmed that it had rabies.
Joe Scaglione said that everyone has been surprised when they heard about the attack.
"Even the nurses in the hospital and everything as soon as I said, 'otter,' they said, 'what!?'" he said.
Meanwhile, he said he still has a soft spot for animals – even otters.
"They're cute just stay over, there that’s all," Joe Scaglione said.
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