The law requires that the local animal control office be contacted when any person or animal is bitten by another animal, whether the biting animal is wild or domestic. The phone number for the local Santa Cruz animal control office is 454-7303.
When a bite victim seeks medical treatment, the treating physician must also, by law, fill out an animal bite form and send it immediately to animal control. That is true even if the bite is from one’s own pet. An animal control officer will investigate and advise the animal owner about quarantining the animal, which is usually done at the owner’s home. Regardless of the animal’s vaccination history, it will be observed daily for 10 days following the bite for signs of rabies. If the isolated dog or cat is deemed healthy after 10 days, there is no risk of rabies from the original bite wound, and the bitten victim will not need to undergo the series of shots to prevent rabies.
Some animal bite statistics to consider:
More than 3 million animal bites are reported each year.
Emergency rooms see 300,000 animal-bite-related visits each year, costing about $160 million.
Eighty percent of bites are from dogs, 10 percent from cats and remaining 10 percent from other animals.
Children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, especially boys between 5 and 9 years old.
At least 50 percent of dog bites are from a family dog or a dog belonging to a neighbor.
Men are more frequently bitten by dogs than women (3 to 1), and women are more frequently bitten by cats (3 to 1).
Dog owners should be aware that many homeowner insurance policies will not cover certain biting-prone dog species and will often drop coverage or increase premiums after a single dog bite.
In general, dog bites cause less infection than cat bites. This is because dogs’ teeth are duller and less able to penetrate the flesh deeply, while cats’ teeth are sharper, proportionally longer and able to sink deeper. Infections are often evident after fewer than 24 hours.
Bites to the face, although cosmetically worrisome, are least prone to infection, and bites to the hands and fingers are most likely to become infected.
Seek medical treatment immediately for a bite anywhere on the body from any animal if:
**The wound is gaping (wide open).
** The wound won’t stop bleeding. (Always apply pressure first.)
**You have cosmetic concerns.
**You have a weakened immune system.
**The wound already appears infected.
**You need a tetanus booster.
I want to emphasize that if you have suffered what you believe to be more than just a superficial to bite to the hand from any source, be it a dog, a human, or especially a cat, see your doctor for wound evaluation and treatment as soon as possible.
You will most likely be treated with antibiotics before an infection develops. Hand infections — especially from bites — may be a cause for hospitalization if not treated promptly and aggressively.