A Tennessee man who appeared in a YouTube video dancing with his pet raccoon to Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” has started a social media campaign to get the raccoon back after it was seized by state wildlife officials.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency took the animal away from Mark Brown two weeks ago because state law says it’s illegal to keep wild animals as pets.
Brown, of Gallatin, Tenn., says he rescued the raccoon when she was born in May and bottle-fed the animal. He named her Rebekah.
“I feel like I’ve had one of my children taken from me,” said Brown, a former animal control officer.
His pet is playful, he said.
“She’d play, she’d chase bees, she’d pick flowers, whatever, she’d do what raccoons do,” he said. “If she’s released into the wild, all hunters of legal hunting age can train their coon dogs to kill her or trap her for her fur. That’s not what I want.”
In his determination to be reunited with Rebekah, Brown has also appealed to Tennessee Gov. William Haslam. A petition on Change.org appealing to the governor currently has nearly 800 supporters.
“We have a nationwide campaign now called free Rebekah,” Brown said. “We get 75 to 100 emails daily and they’re all petitioning governor Bill Haslam to give me a full pardon, to forgive me of my sins and let me get a permit to keep her.”
Rebekah isn’t Brown’s first pet raccoon.
In 2012, another video of his dancing with a raccoon he called Gunshow catapulted him to YouTube stardom. Brown made more video of himself with the raccoon. They showed him wrestling with the animal and giving it a bath using Hannah Montana shampoo. The videos have racked up millions of views.
Brown and Gunshow were even gearing up for their own reality-TV show until the animal died earlier this year. Brown says he will fight for Rebekah’s return.
“I think we can get Rebekah back. I should not be condemned, I should be commended,” he said. “I’ve done no wrong.”
The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency said it became aware of Rebekah after a complaint from the public about two weeks ago.
Rebekah was taken to Walden’s Puddle, a wildlife rehabilitation and education center in Tennessee.
A wildlife agency spokesman told ABC News that Brown could have been cited but wasn’t because he was cooperative. The animal will not be returned to Brown, the spokesman added.
Bettina Bowers Schwan, the animal care director at Walden’s Puddle, said the raccoon is doing well.
Schwan said the raccoon would be introduced to a clan of other orphaned raccoons, be raised with them and then released into the wild with them “so she can live the wild life she deserves to live.
“It is one thing to ‘love’ these animals,” she wrote in an email to ABC News, “but you must also respect them and their true natures.”