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National animal rights activists are pushing UNL’s athletic director to demand discipline against a Husker football player who tried to take a selfie with a raccoon, then beat the animal to death after it bit him.

The president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also wants University of Nebraska-Lincoln athletic director Shawn Eichorst to make student-athletes take empathy training.

Huskers defensive end Jack Gangwish was driving his pickup north of town on Dec. 3 when spotted a raccoon in the road and decided to take a photo of himself with the animal.

The raccoon wasn’t as keen on the idea and bit 21-year-old Gangwish in the calf.

“It was a raccoon selfie gone completely wrong,” he said later.

Gangwish said he thought the raccoon should be tested for rabies, so he grabbed a wrench with the aim of subduing it.

“It was death by crescent wrench,” said the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Gangwish, who later tweeted that he did not have rabies.

Wild animals account for 90 percent of rabies cases in the United States, and raccoons make up almost half of those, according to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were about 6,200 cases of animal infection and one case of human infection in 2012.

On Wednesday, Gangwish said his wound was doing OK and declined further comment.

In her letter to Eichorst, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said, “No animal deserves to be bludgeoned to death, and cruelty is not acceptable under the law. It's time for acts of cruelty to animals committed by players to be taken extremely seriously, and with violence in football culture now under the microscope, this is the time to address the issue.

“Student athletes are set up to be role models, so it's critical for the university to send its players the message that bullying and abusing anyone is unacceptable.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7395 or jedwards@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSEdwards.

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