A much-loved therapy raccoon has found an unlikely saviour in SNP MEP Alyn Smith.
Flash the raccoon – whose uncle Oreo was the model for Rocket the Raccoon in Disney’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ blockbuster movie – is the star attraction of Party Animals, the animal-assisted therapy organisation based in West Lothian.
But Flash and countless other animals across Scotland could fall foul of the Alien Invasive Species Regulation by the European Commission, which seeks to outline measures to ban certain animals and plants from Europe. The Regulation seeks to protect native biodiversity and ecosystem services, and covers prevention, early detection and eradication, and management.
But MEP Mr Smith has vowed to vote against the proposed ‘Invasive Alien Species’ regulation in the European Parliament
Mr Smith, Honorary Vice-President of the Scottish SPCA, said: “Over the past few days, constituents have been getting in touch to plead for Flash, many sharing first-hand experiences of how they or their loved ones have benefited from these therapy sessions.
“The raccoon can be an environmental risk in the wild but Flash isn’t in the wild. While I appreciate that raccoons are wild animals, we’ve seen their value in therapy sessions for children with special needs.
“This legislation is necessary and I support it in principle but I have a responsibility to the people of Scotland to make sure it is properly drafted. The Environment Committee says it needs more work, NGOs including the World Wildlife Federation and Humane Society International have told me it needs more work, and my constituents have told me it needs more work.
“I agree, and I’ll be voting to send this list back to the drawing board and will not support it until it is properly up to scratch.”
Sean Carr of Party Animals added: “I know raccoons are wild animals but I’ve raised Flash from when he was a baby as he was captive bred within the UK. In fact, I was up more times bottle-feeding him than with my son! He’s used to human contact and thrives on it - he’s a kind, friendly wee soul with a wonderful personality.
“We work with a lot of severely autistic children and kids with ADHD, who respond very well to Flash and look forward to him visiting on a weekly basis. These children will be crushed when they get told their favourite raccoon can’t come and help with their speech therapy and social skills.
“I understand that there does need to be regulation but this isn’t the right way, and I’m genuinely touched that Alyn’s taken this on.”