75-year-old animal lover forced to strangle rabid raccoon

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — A 75-year-old woman in Virginia was forced to strangle a rabid raccoon when it attacked her at a botanical garden.

Cass Overton, a garden volunteer, said her tai chi training kept her calm when the rabid animal grabbed her leg.

“I was looking up at birds, because I am a birder and when I looked down, this animal was coming at me already,” Overton told WTVR days after Saturday’s attack. “I started to walk backward and it lunged at my leg.”

The raccoon grabbed her leg and wouldn't let go. That's when she knew it was her or the raccoon.

“I got it by the neck with both hands,” she told WTVR. “I realized it was so violent, that I couldn’t throw it off and then expect that it would not be right after me. So, I knew what I had to do. I had to choke it.”

She held the raccoon on the ground with her knee on its neck until it stopped breathing.

Overton was eventually able to get help from the garden staff and was transported to the hospital.

“I knew what I was doing,” the animal lover told WTVR. “It wasn’t that I went into some altered state of consciousness. I was very focused. Not shaken, until after it was over.”

Now, Overton is receiving a series of rabies shots. She cautioned everyone to be aware of their surroundings.

The footpath where Overton was attacked was closed until the garden staff said it was safe to reopen.