THORNDIKE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Rabies cases are on the rise statewide, and in Thorndike, one man has taken the problem into his own hands.
Michael Topich, 47, had been keeping 11 eight-week-old puppies in his backyard in Thorndike before he could sell them.
One night, he found a skunk had broken in to the fenced-in area around the puppies.
"It latched on to a puppy and was dragging it, and I just grabbed it from the back of the neck and started choking it," said Topich.
"I just tried to pry the mouth open with my fingers, not thinking rabid. I'm just thinking, save the puppy."
Topich injured the skunk and took it to be tested for rabies.
After it came back positive, Topich received multiple rabies shots, but made the tough decision to put down all 11 puppies.
"It has to be one of the toughest decisions I've made in my life," said Topich. "Eleven puppies or the safety and well-being of your neighbors and friends and their animals."
Topich said he was full of emotion when he stepped in to save his puppies, but Animal Control Officers advise people to leave it up to the professionals.
"Don't pick it up with your bare hands. I realize you don't think, you're scared for your animal, and you want to save it," said Bangor Animal Control Officer Patricia Pinkham.
"But you got to consider you're putting your own life in danger by doing so."
According to the Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, rabies cases are on the rise this year.
Director Dr. Sheila Pinette said a typical year has about 65 rabies cases. So far this year, there have been 50, putting the year on pace to hit 100 cases.
Dr. Pinette advises people who come across a rabid animal to keep their distance, call their local animal control officer and the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821, and contact their physican in the case of animal contact.
Pinkham recommends getting your pets vaccinated as soon as they reach the appropriate age, and keeping them indoors until they reach that age.