Sunday, May 1, 2016

Riggs Rideout: A Modest Proposal for Addressing Toronto's Raccoon Problem

Dear City of Toronto Officials:

Late last night I went into the backyard and there she was, watching me:  Big Mama, the resident raccoon. A year ago, I exchanged harsh words with Big Mama.  I suggested that she take the brood of five she’d stashed under our deck and hit the road.  She argued that she was higher up the food chain than I am.  The debate was long and loud, and did not end well for me. 

The next day, my owner (AKA “Mom”) called pest control to evict Big Mama.  For $400, the guy put the babies in what looked like a beer cooler and set it in the corner of the yard.  At nightfall, Big Mama collected her evil spawn and moved to someone else’s yard.  But they kept coming back to taunt me.  Their petty squabbles as they raided the garbage bins disrupted my sleep all summer long.  I got hoarse from barking.
Working hard at nothing

Now, Big Mama is back and she’s smirking.  She’s laid five more masked eggs and the cycle is about to begin again.

I know City Officials get a lot of complaints about this topic.  Toronto is called “the Raccoon Capital of the World” and it isn’t a compliment.  A 2014 poll showed that the majority of Torontonians supported the idea of humanely culling raccoons to control their population. No one bothered to poll me, but you know how I’d have voted. 

Mom, not so much.  She thinks the baby ’coons are cute and loves the nickname “Trash Pandas.” That said, she worries about disease, and curses when she cleans up their poop and the garbage.  And it really annoys her that I cannot pee if Big Mama is in the vicinity.  Basically, I have bladder paralysis from spring to late fall and must be escorted down the street to relieve myself. 

On top of all this, they infringe on my walk, which I’m sure you know is the highlight of every dog’s day.  In recent years, the City has seen fit to eliminate most of the public waste bins in my neighborhood, and the remaining few are designed to be raccoon proof.  Which also makes them practically human-proof.  The foot pedals don’t work and no one wants to touch the dirty flap. So Mom has mapped out a route with a dumpster to offload poop bags. 

Would you like your life to be restricted by dumpsters and Trash Pandas?  
Making an honest living in the ravine
I’ve heard that there are as many as 100 raccoons per square kilometre in some Toronto neighborhoods.  That means they outnumber dogs by far and maybe even humans.  Perhaps that’s why City Hall treats them like esteemed taxpayers.  I remind you, they are not—and they’re not even owned and licenced by taxpayers, as dogs are. 
What exactly do they offer?  Yes, photos of the masked marauders zip around social media like wildfire.  But for every cutie climbing a crane, riding a subway, or visiting a classroom, there are dozens ripping up houses, sheds and even boats.  Let’s not even talk about rabies and distemper.

I know how government works:  you’ve held meetings about Citizen Raccoon.  You’ve generated policy papers, briefing notes, and Powerpoint decks galore. No one wants to make tough decisions or generate negative headlines. 

That’s where I, Riggs Rideout, come in.  Have I got a solution for you!  It’s humane, too. As a minor celebrity, I’m well aware of the importance of public perception. What I propose is a win-win for everyone.

A very special shawl
I present a photo for your inspection.  This attractive garment is a shawl, or pashmina, worn by one of Mom’s colleagues.  The tag says it’s 50 per cent raccoon fiber.  The owner gets a lot of compliments, and claims it’s very warm. 

City Officials, you can guess where I’m going here.  This is a tremendous opportunity.  Raise your hands and vote for the Toronto Trash Panda Pashmina.  Put those pests to work!

All you need to do now is round up them up and drive them to that land you can’t develop for "classified" reasons.  Treat them like royalty.  Hire limos and put them up in a Trash Panda resort if you like.  Feed them well with the food waste you’re constantly trying to unload (and no one believes you’re really recycling, anyway). Sing them lullabies if you must, so they sleep well and grow fur in abundance. And then… comb them.  Gather that lovely hair, and hire skilled craftspeople to knit up those shawls. 

With the right marketing, Toronto’s Trash Panda Pashmina could become the must-have souvenir.  I envision them in every tourist trap. Give them away to celebrities at the Toronto Film Festival, and every high profile event. 

The benefits to the City are many: job creation; waste reduction; happy homeowners; and lower heating costs (a pashmina for every taxpayer!). 
I’d add “happy dogs” to that list, but you don’t seem to care much about canine citizens.  That’s a shame, because as rising dog model I stand to attract a lot of attention to this fair city.
With my busy schedule, it’s tough to volunteer, but I’d be pleased to be part of the Trash Panda Project.  I assume you allow dogs in City Hall? I’m quite sure the raccoons are already there.

I look forward to presenting my proposal in person at your earliest convenience.

Respectfully yours, 

Riggs Rideout,
Dog Model

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