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What should Californians do if bitten by a dog?

When most Californians are bitten by a dog they don't know, their chief concern is contracting rabies. It's important to remember that, according to the California Department of Public Health, only 3 percent of animal rabies cases occur from bites by domestic animals. Most people who get rabies are bitten or scratched by a wild animal.

The CDPH advises anyone who has been scratched or bitten by an animal that could be rabid to thoroughly wash the wound with warm water and then get it checked immediately by a doctor. He or she will determine if a series of shots is necessary. As we note on our website, it's also important to get the name and address of the dog's owner, if you know who it is, proof that the dog is current on its rabies vaccinations and the owner's homeowner's insurance information.

Sacramento County's Department of Animal Care and Regulation also asks people to report a bite, whether or not it is severe enough to warrant medical attention. Note that medical professionals are required by law to do this if they treat a person for an animal bite.

Many people hesitate to report a dog bite injury for fear that the animal will be impounded and/or euthanized. However, that is not always necessary. When a bite is reported, authorities verify that the dog is licensed and has been vaccinated for rabies.

When you report a bite, your county animal regulatory agency will ask for detailed information about the bite itself and the medical treatment you received. They also will ask for as much information as you have on the animal, including a description as well as any information you have on the owner and whether the dog has been licensed and vaccinated. If the animal's address is known, animal regulation officers will visit the owners to ensure that they have a current license and that the rabies vaccination is also current.

While very few dog bites result in rabies, they can cause serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment. Being bitten by a dog can be a truly frightening experience. Victims have every right to seek compensation from the dog's owner to cover medical bills as well as other damages. This may be the incentive they need to better control their dog for the animal's sake as well as for the safety of others.

Source: Sacramento County, "If You Are Bitten" Aug. 27, 2014

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