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Coyote that bit 5-year-old girl in NY playground had rabies: Health Department

THORNWOOD, N.Y. — A coyote that attacked a 5-year-old, clamping down on the child's arm in a playground as her mother and an off-duty officer tried to fend it off, had rabies, Westchester County Health Department officials said Tuesday.

Natalia Petrallese is recovering from an arm injury after the rabid coyote sank its teeth into her as she played at the Carroll Park playground on Sunday with her mother and younger brother.

The pre-K student got stitches and rabies shots immediately after the harrowing ordeal, just in case the coyote turned out to have rabies.

On Tuesday, Health Department officials confirmed it did.

Now everyone who came into contact with the animal, or its saliva, are being evaluated to determine if they also need preventative rabies shots, officials said.

That will likely include the girl's mother, Kasey King-Petrallese, and off-duty Irvington police officer Arcangelo Liberatore.

The mother immediately grabbed Natalie and her 3-year-old son when she spotted the coyote, but the animal lunged at her daughter, she told PIX11.

"I took my foot and kicked him right in the face with all of my might, and he fell down to the ground," King-Petrallese said.

She then "grabbed his snout trying to break that bite, break that lock" it had on the child's arm.

Liberatore, a friend of family, managed to seize the animal and free the child. The off-duty officer held the coyote for about five minutes, until Pleasant police arrived. When they did, they arranged for Liberatore to jump out of the way while they shot and killed the coyote.

After the incident, officials said it was highly unusual for coyotes, which are mostly nocturnal animals, to approach humans at any time, but especially during the middle of the day, in an open area.

“If a coyote approaches, make noise and try to avoid it,” Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler said.  “If it appears aggressive or lethargic, it could have rabies, so contact local police. Avoid contact with strays and other wildlife.”

Health Department officials reminded New Yorkers Tuesday that state law requires dogs, cats and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies and get regular booster shots.  For more information, click here or call the rabies information line at 914-813-5010.

All animal bites or contacts with animals suspected of having rabies have to be reported to the Westchester County Department of Health at 914-813-5000. Calls can be made 24 hours a day.