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Wild animals usually avoid people. They might attack, however, if they feel threatened, are sick, or are protecting their young or territory. Attacks by pets are more common. Animal bites rarely are life-threatening, but if they become infected, you can develop serious medical problems.

To prevent animal bites and complications from bites Never pet, handle, or feed unknown animals Leave snakes alone Watch your children closely around animals Vaccinate your cats, ferrets, and dogs against rabies Spay or neuter your dog to make it less aggressive Get a tetanus booster if you have not had one recently Wear boots and long pants when you are in areas with venomous snakes

If an animal bites you, clean the wound with soap and water as soon as possible. Get medical attention if necessary.

Cat and Dog Bites Cat and Dog Bites How should I take care of a bite from a cat or a dog?

Whether from a family pet or a neighborhood stray, cat and dog bites are common.

Here are some things you should do to take care of a wound caused by a cat or dog bite:

If necessary, call your doctor (see the shaded box below).Wash the wound gently with soap and water. Apply pressure with a clean towel to the injured area to stop any bleeding. Apply a sterile bandage to the wound. Keep the injury elevated above the level of the heart to slow swelling and prevent infection. If necessary, report the incident to the proper authority in your community (for example, the animal control office or the police).Apply antibiotic ointment to the area 2 times every day until it heals.

What will my doctor do?

Here are some things your doctor may do to treat a cat or dog bite: Examine the wound for possible nerve damage, tendon damage or bone injury. He or she will also check for signs of infection. Clean the wound with a special solution and remove any damaged tissue. May use stitches to close a bite wound, but often the wound is left open to heal, which can lower the risk of infection. May prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection. May give you a tetanus shot if you had your last shot more than 5 years ago. May ask you to schedule an office visit to check your wound again in 1 to 2 days. If your injury is severe, or if the infection has not gotten better even though you're taking antibiotics, your doctor may suggest that you see a specialist and/or go to the hospital, where you can get special medicine given intravenously (through an IV needle into your vein) and further treatment if necessary.

Call your doctor in any of these situations:

You have a cat bite. Cat bites often cause infection. You don't need to call your doctor for a cat scratch, unless you think the wound is infected. You have a dog bite on your hand, foot or head, or you have a bite that is deep or gaping. You have diabetes, liver or lung disease, cancer, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or another condition that could weaken your ability to fight infection. You have any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, increased tenderness, oozing of pus from the wound or a fever. You have bleeding that doesn't stop after 15 minutes of pressure or you think you may have a broken bone, nerve damage or another serious injury. Your last tetanus shot (vaccine) was more than 5 years ago. (If so, you may need a booster shot.)You were bitten by a wild animal or a domestic animal (such as a pet) of unknown vaccination status.

Will I need a rabies shot? Probably not. Rabies is uncommon in dogs and cats in the United States. (It is more common in wild animals like skunks, raccoons, bats and coyotes.) If a dog or cat that bit you appeared to be healthy at the time of the bite, it's unlikely that the animal had rabies. However, it's a good idea to take some precautions if you're bitten by a dog or cat.

If you know the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, ask for the pet's vaccination record (record of shots). An animal that appears healthy and has been vaccinated may still be quarantined (kept away from people and other animals) for 10 days to make sure it doesn't start showing signs of rabies. If the animal gets sick during the 10-day period, a veterinarian will test it for rabies. If the animal does have rabies, you will need to get a series of rabies shots (see below).

If the animal is a stray or you can't find the owner of the dog or cat that bit you, call the animal control agency or health department in your area. They will try to find the animal so it can be tested for rabies.

If the animal control agency or health department can't find the animal that bit you, if the animal shows signs of rabies after the bite or if a test shows that the animal has rabies, your doctor will probably want you to get a series of rabies shots (also called post-exposure prophylaxis). You need to get 2 shots as soon as possible after the bite occurs. After this, your doctor will give you 3 more shots over a 14-day period.

How can I prevent cat and dog bites? Here are some things you can do to prevent bites: Never leave a young child alone with a pet. They often don't know how to be gentle with the pet, which can cause the pet to get irritated and bite. Do not try to separate fighting animals. You may get bit in the process. Avoid sick animals and/or animals that you don't know whether or not they are vaccinated. Leave animals alone while they are eating. Animals are often very protective of their food. Keep pets on a leash when in public. Select your family pet carefully and be sure to keep your pet's vaccinations (shots) up-to-date.

If you have a pet, you know how much fun it can be: watching little fish swim in a tank, seeing a dog catch a ball in its mouth, petting the pebbly, cold surface of a lizard's back, or designing a fancy maze for a hamster. Kids who like the outdoors can tell you how exciting it is to spot their favorite birds — and how stinky it can be when they get a sniff of their local skunk.

Animals can be great fun, but it's important to know how to be safe when you're with them. Both indoor animals and outdoor animals need to be treated kindly all the time. This means different things depending on the animal and the situation. With a wild animal, being kind may mean staying far away so the animal doesn't feel threatened and so you stay safe. The Great Outdoors

Stepping outside can mean a world full of great animals to see — from squirrels in trees to birds in flight. In some parts of the world, kids may see slithery snakes, black bats, or even cool coyotes. And don't forget raccoons, skunks, and other critters that come out in some places at night.

The rule in the great outdoors is simple: Don't touch or go near an animal. Although some of these animals may look cool or even cute, leave them alone. These animals aren't like regular pets. They're not used to being around people and may bite or attack if you come near them. They also might have rabies.

Don't ever try to feed a wild animal. Bird feeders are OK, but other animals, even if they look hungry, shouldn't ever be fed. When it comes to these animals, it's better for everyone if you stay away and check them out at the zoo, on the Internet, on TV nature shows, or in books.

Playing Safely With Pets Pets can't tell you if they're upset or scared, so they show you. They might do this by biting or scratching. To avoid bites and scratches:

Never bother a pet when it's eating or pull its food or water away.

Don't tease a dog or cat or pull its tail or ears.

Never bother a pet when it's sleeping.

Don't take a toy or bone away from a cat or dog or hold it out of reach of the animal.

Never try to get near a pet with its babies (like a cat with kittens or a dog with puppies). Animal mothers are very protective and will bite to keep you away.

When lifting a rabbit, hamster, guinea pig, or gerbil from its cage, do it slowly. Be sure to hold the animal underneath its belly.

Never pick up or hold a rabbit by its ears.

When pulling an iguana, lizard, snake, or other reptile from its tank, do it slowly and carefully. Then wash your hands right away because reptiles can carry bacteria like Salmonella on their skin.

Never stick your bare hand into a fish tank — most fish can't hurt you. But a few types of fish can and do sting if they get upset. The water also contains germs that could cause a skin infection.

If a pet looks sick or is injured, stay far away. An animal that normally loves to be petted and played with may get very upset and even bite when it is feeling ill. Tell an adult so he or she can get help for the animal.

When you're at a friend's home, the same rules apply — plus one more. Always ask your friend if it's OK to pet or hold his or her pet. If your friend says OK, move slowly and be sure to let the animal sniff your hands first.

Woof! Woof! Safety Around a Strange DogComing home from school and hoping you won't see the dog who always barks like crazy and runs around? You're not the only one. Kids often get scared of a dog they don't know, especially if that dog is loud and doesn't have an owner nearby. To keep your cool around canines (dogs):

Never pet or touch a strange dog, even if it runs up to you and seems like it might be friendly.

If a dog starts running toward you, don't run. Running away can make the dog want to chase after you — even if it doesn't want to hurt you, its instincts will tell it to chase.

If a strange dog approaches you, try to stand very still. This may be scary for a minute or two, but often the dog will become bored and walk away. If the dog tries to sniff you, let it sniff — this is its way of checking you out.

Walk away from a strange dog very slowly. Don't wave your arms around or make a lot of noise because these actions will only excite the dog. Look straight ahead and not into the dog's eyes.

If you are very afraid of a strange dog or a strange dog tries to bite or attack you, tell an adult as soon as possible. He or she can find the dog's owner.

A final word on felines (say: FEE-lines), also known as cats: Although most kids aren't as scared of strange cats as they are of strange dogs, it's still a good idea to stay away from cats you don't know. Never pet or touch a strange cat, even if it seems friendly.

Save your love for your own dogs and cats. You know they'll love you back!

Animal Control Liability for Dog Bites The enforcement of laws pertaining to animals is a police function. In many cities and counties, the responsibility is delegated to an animal control department, namely a limited law enforcement agency that is staffed by animal control officers. In some places, animal control is put into the hands of the local humane society which is not a governmental agency at all but which possibility could have some of the legal rights of one. (See Humane Society Liability for Dog Bites here at dogbitelaw.com.)

The authority of animal control officers to make arrests, conduct searches, and deal with animals varies widely from one jurisdiction to another. For example, officers in one city might carry guns, make arrests and have the ability to conduct dog court hearings and euthanize vicious dogs, while officers in an adjoining city might be unarmed, have the power to do nothing other than write tickets, and be authorized to quarantine a vicious dog that attacks a person, but not to put the dog down. 

The government has a monopoly on animal control. It is illegal for an ordinary citizen to trap, exile or kill dogs that are vicious to people (unless a situation arises in which a dog is reasonably certain to inflict severe bodily injury on a human being, triggering the right to defend oneself or another person). If we shoot a dog in self-defense, we face the possibility that a wrong-headed local prosecutor might file charges against us of animal cruelty or discharging a firearm within the city limits.

Even though this monopoly is justified by the notion that the enforcement of animal control laws is a governmental function, many cities have abandoned it almost entirely. The department might lack the necessary number of officers, proper facilities, working trucks, safe equipment, and legal authority to actually do something in response to a vicious dog or a recidivist dog owner.

Even the adequately supported animal control officers have conflicting mandates: to protect animals from the negligence and cruelty of some people, and to protect people from the dangerousness and viciousness of some animals. This contradiction itself frequently results in chronic under-enforcement of the laws. Consider, for example, the plight of residents of San Diego, California. Its animal control department has engaged in the controversial practice of promoting the adoption of pit bulls. The results have been terrible: the city's Union-Tribune newspaper has published official statistics establishing that approximately 9% of San Diego's pit bulls bite people, while the average is 1-1/2% for all breeds. (Read John Wilkins, What's Being Done About Dog Bites, U-T San Diego.) On November 11, 2012, Remedios Romero-Solares, 30, of Fallbrook, California, was killed by one or more of 8 American bulldog mixes. In San Diego, this was the 4th killing by a pit bull type dog in a short period of time. One can truly say that the no-kill policy applies only to dogs but not to people in San Diego.

The result of animal control under-enforcement can be injuries and deaths. In recent memory, wild dogs and dogs running at large in a pack have injured or killed a number of people. Here are some of them:

1. On April 29, 2000, in Newberry Springs, California, a pet sitter / house sitter named James Chiavetta, 54, left a gate open, allowing a number of dogs to run at large. The dogs chased and killed 8-year-old Cash Carson.

2. On June 10, 2000, Dorothy Stewart, a census worker, was killed by a pack of more than 18 dogs while collecting census data in Indiana.

3. On March 6, 2001, 10-year-old Rodney McAllister of St. Louis was eaten alive by a pack of dogs in the park across the street from his home. ("He was literally eaten by the dogs," Police Chief Ron Henderson said on the news. "They fed off of him.")

4. On November 30, 2003, 40-year-old Jennifer Brooke of Elbert County, Colorado, was killed by 3 roaming pit bulls in a barn near her rural home.

5. On December 12, 2003, in Ocala, Florida, 81-year-old Alice Broom was killed in her own yard. She was attacked by 6 dogs and bled to death on the street.

6. On March 8, 2005, in Partlow, Virginia, 82-year-old Dorothy Sullivan was killed on her front lawn by a neighbor's 3 roaming pit bulls.

7. In July 2006, Jimmie May McConnell of Kansas City, Kansas, was killed by dogs that had entered her yard.

8. On July 31, 2006, John Brannaman, 81, died of a heart attack at Orlando, Florida, after he was mauled by loose dogs in front of his home.

9. On November 3, 2006, 10-year-old Matthew Davis of Dillon, South Carolina was killed by 6 dogs that attacked him outside a rural home.

10. On May 13, 2007, Celestino Rangel, a 90-year-old man in San Antonio, Texas, was killed by two pit bulls that had broken into his home and attacked him.

11. On May 17, 2007, 59-year-old James Chapple, Jr., died in Memphis, Tennessee, due to complications from injuries inflicted by stray dogs running at large.

12. On September 13, 2007, Edward Gierlach, 91, of Iosco Township, Michigan, and Cheryl Harper, 56, of Fowlerville, Michigan, were killed in separate incidents by a pack of bulldogs that were running at large.

13. On October 15, 2007, Rosalie Bivins, 65, died after a pack of 5 to 7 dogs attacked her as she used a walker to get to the mailbox at the end of her driveway. This happened in Oklahoma.

14. On December 25, 2007, in Yermo, California, 45-year-old Kelly Caldwell was killed by up to 5 dogs. They were running at large on the street where she was walking.

Note: all of the above mentioned deaths happened before Krystal was mauled on June 15, 2008.

15. On August 17, 2008, Henry Piotrowski, 90 years old, of Staten Island, New York, died after being mauled by two loose dogs on July 1, 2008.

16. On September 4, 2008, Luna McDaniel, 83, of Ville Platte, Louisiana, died as a result of being mauled by 3 dogs running at large on August 24, 2008. She was collecting cans in her neighborhood for recycling.

17. On March 28, 2009, 48-year-old Gordon Lykins of Winterhaven, California, was attacked by wild dogs near a drainage canal road, a few miles north of Yuma, Arizona. He died on April 10, 2009, from those injuries.

18. On April 10, 2009, Michael Landry, a 4-year-old boy from Louisiana, was killed by a neighbor's 3 dogs that were running at large.

19. On August 14, 2009, 66-year-old Sherry Schweder and her husband, 76-year-old Lothar Schweder, were killed by an unknown number of at-large dogs near the couple's home outside Atlanta, Georgia.

20. On December 4, 2009, 70-year-old Lowell Bowden of Lindside, West Virginia, died from injuries that 4 dogs inflicted upon him on November 27, 2009. He was taking a walk near his home, and was mauled beyond recognition.

All of these killings were by packs of dogs. Some of the packs were wild, others were "neighborhood dogs." These were only the death cases. There are hundreds of thousands of non-fatal pack attacks on Americans each year. The point is that when dogs roam at large in a pack, they are very dangerous. When they are wild, they are even more dangerous. 

As a result of the under-enforcement of animal control laws, courts have held animal control departments responsible for the payment of compensation to victims of dog attacks that resulted in part from animal control negligence. For example:The Jennifer Lowe case. On November 12, 2007, pit bulls belonging to Charles Smallwood of Knoxville, Tennessee, savagely attacked twenty-one year old Jennifer Lowe at the entry of Smallwood’s mobile home, from which Smallwood himself was absent. The pit bulls severely mauled Ms. Lowe during the attack, inflicting horrific injuries on her face and body which ultimately caused her death later that day. Attorneys Kenneth M. Phillips and Wayne A. Ritchie II, representing Ms. Lowe's family, uncovered evidence that the same dogs had repeatedly attempted to bite people, had attacked and bitten a sheriff's car, had been shot at by police officers in self-defense, and had actually been formally declared to be vicious by the Knox County Animal Control Department. Despite having the legal authority to confiscate the dogs, however, the animal control officers did not do so, up to the time of Ms. Lowe's horrific death. As a result of the negligence of its animal control department, Knox County was forced to pay substantial monetary damages to her family.The Krystal Cooney case. Attorney Phillips also represented Krystal Cooney, who was injured by a pack of dogs on June 15, 2008 in Parlier, California. The attack left her with permanent and disfiguring scarring on her left arm and both legs. These were wild, vicious dogs that had been living on the premises of Parlier High School. Numerous complaints to the city's animal control department were met with inaction. The county's animal control department took some measures to round up the packs of dogs in the area, but those measures were inadequate. As a result, the city and the county, as well as the school district, were forced to pay substantial monetary damages to Ms. Cooney.Other examples. Two appellate courts have recently affirmed suits against animal control agencies for not taking dangerous dogs off the streeets. See Animal Control Officials May Be Held Liable for Failure to Exercise Expected Law-Enforcement Duties

The requirements for suing any governmental agency or employee, however, can present difficulty to the dog bite victim. A memorandum of law must be drafted at the outset, specifying the legal grounds on which the plaintiff will rely. Generally, an animal control agency can be sued only where it breached a mandatory duty set forth in the state, county or city law, or where it had adequate notice of the dangerous dogs, the authority to remedy the situation, but failed to take appropriate action. The plaintiff is required to notify the city or county within a short period of time following the attack, and to file suit a short amount of time after being informed that the city or county denies liability (which they always do). One should expect that the government then will attempt to defend itself by using all of the immunities that the law provides.

Animal bites An animal bite can result in a break or tear in the skin, a bruise, or a puncture wound. Considerations Bites that result in puncture wounds are more likely to become infected. You might have a puncture wound if an animal's tooth went through your skin during the bite.

An animal bite is also more likely to become infected in those who have: A weakened immune system due to medicines or disease Diabetes Peripheral artery disease

Some animals are infected with a virus that can cause rabies. Bats may spread this disease. Rabies is rare but can be deadly. If you get a rabies shot very soon after you are bitten, you can develop immunity to the disease and not get sick. For more information on this disease, see:  Rabies.

Antibiotics are used to treat many animal bites, especially: If it involved your hands or fingers If a cat or monkey bit you

You may need antibiotics even if you did not need stitches or a rabies shot. Causes

Pets are the most common cause of bites. Dog bites are most common. Cat bites are less common, but have a higher risk of infection. Cat teeth are longer and sharper, which can cause deeper puncture wounds. Stray animals and wild animals, such as skunks, raccoons, and bats, also bite thousands of people each year.

If you are bitten by a wild animal or an unknown pet, try to keep it in view while you notify animal control authorities for help in capturing it. They will determine if the animal needs to be impounded and checked for rabies. Any animal whose rabies vaccination status is unknown should be captured and quarantined. Symptoms

Possible symptoms include: Break or major cuts in the skin with or without bleeding Bruising Crushing injuries Puncture-type wound

Certain diseases can also be spread through bites from various animals. These diseases may cause flu-like symptoms, headache, and fever. First Aid Calm and reassure the person. Wear latex gloves or wash your hands thoroughly before attending to the wound. Wash hands afterwards, too. If the bite is not bleeding severely, wash the wound thoroughly with mild soap and running water for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, cover the bite with antibiotic ointment and a clean dressing. If the bite is actively bleeding, apply direct pressure with a clean, dry cloth until the bleeding stops. Raise the area of the bite. If the bite is on the hand or fingers, call the doctor right away. Over the next 24 to 48 hours, watch the area of the bite for signs of infection (increasing skin redness, swelling, and pain).If the bite becomes infected, call the doctor or take the person to an emergency medical center.DO NOT

Do NOT go near an animal that may have rabies or is acting strangely or aggressively. Do NOT try to catch it yourself.

If an animal's behavior is strange, it may be rabid. Notify the proper authorities. The police can always direct you to the proper animal control authorities. Tell them what the animal looks like and where it is so they can capture it. When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call 911 if the person has been seriously wounded -- for example, if the person is bleeding significantly and it will not stop with simple first aid measures.

Call your doctor or go to a hospital emergency room if: The person was bitten by an unknown or wild animal. The person has not had a tetanus shot within the past 5 years. (If a person has not had a tetanus shot in 5 years, a tetanus shot is recommended within 24 hours of any skin break.) There is swelling, redness, pus draining from the wound, or pain. The bite is on the face, neck, or hands. The bite is deep or large. You aren't sure if the wound needs stitches.

Report the bite to the local animal control authorities, even if you don't seek professional medical care. This will allow authorities to test the animal and prevent further incidents. Prevention Teach children not to approach strange animals. Do NOT provoke or tease animals. Alternative Names

Bites - animals

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