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Raccoon Dogs

What is a raccoon dog?

Raccoon dog © RSPCA

The raccoon dog, also known by their Japanese name ‘tanuki’ is a wild animal with (not so surprisingly) an appearance close to that of both a raccoon and a dog. With their raccoon-like faces and long brindled fur, these unusual omnivores are native to southern and eastern Asia.

The ideal raccoon dog habitat consists of large open spaces near open water and dense with vegetation. They are the only member of the dog family that hibernates and they often do so in pairs.

Can you have a raccoon dog as a pet?

Raccoon dogs are wild animals and can become aggressive and their behaviour unmanageable in captivity. They are also extremely smelly, as they use scent to communicate with one another.

It’s not possible to meet their needs, so that they are healthy and happy, in a domesticated environment. As wild animals raccoon dogs need large open spaces at all times and a complex environment to carry out normal behaviours, such as access to water, natural vegetation, and ample hiding places.

We would not recommend keeping raccoon dogs as pets. We have rehomed raccoon dogs to wildlife parks and zoos, in pairs or compatible groups, however we’re struggling to find good homes for these animals where their needs can be met.

What family do raccoon dogs belong to?

In spite of their distinctive raccoon-like markings on their fur, the raccoon dog is not closely related to the raccoon. They’re instead part of the Canidae family, which includes wolves, foxes, and domesticated dogs.

What do raccoon dogs eat?

Racoon dogs are omnivores and naturally feed on insects, rodents, amphibians, birds, fish, molluscs and carrion, as well as fruits, nuts, and berries. In the wild, raccoon dogs live and hunt in pairs or small family groups, although solitary animals have also been seen.

Where do raccoon dogs come from?

Raccoon dogs are native to eastern Siberia, northern China, North Vietnam, Korea, and Japan and are now widespread in some European countries, having been accidentally released, or having escaped.

Is it legal to own a pet raccoon dog?

Two raccoon dogs © RSPCA

Unfortunately, it is currently legal to keep and sell raccoon dogs as pets in England and Wales. However, it will be illegal to sell raccoon dogs from 2 February 2019, except for existing stock, as they have been classed as an invasive species risk in Europe. Also despite it being currently legal to own a raccoon dog, abandoning a raccoon dog at any time is an offence by law. These regulations also do not allow breeding and require raccoon dogs to be kept securely.

Sadly some choose to bring raccoon dogs into their home and we believe many of the raccoon dogs we’ve collected are due to owners intentionally letting them out into the wild after they realise they cannot care for them.

How are we helping?

We have taken in ‘pet’ raccoon dogs that were no longer wanted by their owners or when owners have realised they cannot look after them properly.  We’ve also been called to capture and collect stray ‘pet’ raccoon dogs that have escaped, or been deliberately released to the wild, despite being illegal.

If you’ve seen a raccoon dog that’s been abandoned, or are concerned about the well-being or a raccoon dog being kept as a pet, please contact our national cruelty line.

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