She loved her pet raccoon. Then she took it to a pet store for milk.

Jennifer Crabill holds an injured raccoon at the Kentucky Wildlife Center in Lexington in April 2016.
Jennifer Crabill holds an injured raccoon at the Kentucky Wildlife Center in Lexington in April 2016. cbertram@herald-leader.com

A 19-year-old Gaston County woman said she “cried a lot” after surrendering her pet baby raccoon to Mecklenburg County Animal Care & Control this week, the Gaston Gazette reported.

“He would sit (on me) and cuddle up,” Mariah Petrea of Stanley told the newspaper of the raccoon she bought from an S.C. breeder. “He would sit on my chest. After he’d eat, he’d climb up to my shoulder and lay there on my neck.”

She named her raccoon Riker and planned on owning him as a fifth pet – she has three dogs and a cat.

Things went awry on her way back from picking up the animal, when she and her boyfriend stopped at a pet shop on South Boulevard in Charlotte to buy the tiny raccoon some milk, she told the Gazette.

It was chilly, and Petrea said she took Riker inside the shop to keep him warm.

She told the Gazette she was careful to warn customers not to mess with the raccoon, knowing the animal’s reputation for carrying rabies.

Someone alerted Mecklenburg County Animal Care & Control, which asked the public to help identify the couple. It is illegal to own a raccoon in North Carolina without a permit.

Petrea surrendered the animal on Tuesday, knowing that was the end for her beloved baby. The rabies test required the raccoon be euthanized and then beheaded.

“I cried a lot,” Petrea told the Gazette on Thursday, the same day the Mecklenburg County Health Department reported the test had come back negative for rabies.

“Today, now that it’s over with, I know what I’m going to not do next time,” she told the newspaper. “This will not keep me from getting another one.”

Petrea said Riker was friendly in the short time she owned him. When the animal wasn’t on her shoulder, Petrea kept Riker in a crate.

She told the Gazette she hasn’t been able to fully explain the 5-week-old animal’s death to her 3-year-old son, who knows something is different. “He doesn’t really understand yet,” she said. “He knew it wasn’t where it usually was.”

JBL Animal Shower 4
A three-week-old raccoon is pictured at the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center in Hughson, Calif., in May 2016. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

Joe Marusak: 704-987-3670, @jmarusak