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Advice given on steps to follow after dog bite

May 03, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

The first thing to do in the event of a dog bite is to evaluate the extent of the injury, said Rod MacRae, spokesman for the Washington County Health Department.

"The injury could range from no break in the skin to some break in the skin to very serious wounds," MacRae said.

For the more serious injuries, call 911 for immediate medical attention. Once the victim is at the hospital, the reporting process will begin because the health department's dog bite forms are kept in the emergency room, MacRae said.

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A family physician could treat lesser injuries and might suggest a tetanus shot, MacRae said. Other injuries could be attended to at home.

After the injuries have received immediate attention, the dog bite should be reported to the appropriate police agency, depending on whether the incident occurred in Hagerstown or elsewhere in Washington County.

"All police agencies have the standard forms we provide for dog bite cases," MacRae said.

The police or animal control authority will require a 10-day quarantine of all dogs, whether there is proof of rabies vaccination or not, MacRae said.

"That quarantine could be at the owner's home," he said.

If the dog is a stray, then the quarantine would be at the Humane Society of Washington County on Maugansville Road.

"We're looking for a live, healthy animal at the end of the 10 days," MacRae said. "If the animal is showing signs of not being healthy, it will be tested, which requires the animal to be killed."

MacRae said that for a seemingly healthy animal, no examination would be required, just the quarantine.

There are variables in each situation, and MacRae said people need to understand that.

"The ferocity of the animal is up to the animal control authority," while the health department is concerned with rabies, MacRae said.

The animal control ordinance for Washington County grants the chief administrator of the Humane Society the authority to declare an animal a vicious and dangerous animal. The owner has the right to appeal that declaration within 10 days.

Owners of animals so designated must keep them confined or muzzled and leashed when not confined, the ordinance says.

Such an animal may be impounded by animal control officers if the owner violates those provisions, the ordinance says. Civil penalties also may apply.

"The ordinance is vague, I'll grant you," said Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Joe Michael.

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