Rabies shots given to boy bitten by unknown dog
David Hoskins was just running across a field to baseball practice at Aspen Park in the Gardnerville Ranchos. The dog was silent, coming out of nowhere, biting the 11-year-old from behind.
“He said the dog actually attached itself to his bum as he ran,” said David’s mother, Doris Hoskins. “He did the right thing by telling an adult right away.”
When David reached the playing field, he ran to his coach, telling him what had happened. The bite broke the skin and he was bleeding.
“I was running and he just got me,” David said. “I just ran faster and the dog ran away and I told my coach.”
David described the dog as medium-sized with white, black and gray fur. After briefly searching for the animal with no success, Doris called Douglas County Animal Control to report the attack.
Officers then patrolled the immediate area around Muir Drive, talking to children and neighbors.
“We haven’t found the dog that bit David, yet,” said Rhonda Fingar, animal control supervisor. “We’ll are still looking, though. In general, we can usually find the dog – it just takes a while sometimes.”
n Dog “mugshots.” Fingar said David was asked to look through a “mugshot” book of dog breeds. From that, they determined that the offending canine was most likely a cross between an Australian shepherd and a border collie.
Not finding the dog that bit him is unfortunate for David, it turns out, because the animal cannot be tested to see if it has rabies. So, three days after he was attacked, David began his rabies shot series with a gamma globulin injection.
“That one made me sick,” he said. “I’m getting used to the other ones, though.”
Next week, David will have the final shot of his rabies series. Doris said the 5th grader has been asking for a ride to baseball practice or an escort by an older sibling, rather than going solo.
“I think he’ll eventually be fine, but he hasn’t walked the trail alone since he got bit,” she said. “Meanwhile, we’re still looking for that dog.”
Rabies is a fatal disease, caused by a virus and usually transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Although canine rabies is not a problem in Douglas County according to Fingar, the boy’s physician recommended not taking a chance on missing the series of five rabies shots due to the severity of the disease. Contrary to legend, rabies shots are not given in the stomach, but in the arm, much to David’s relief.
Fingar said this has been a relatively bad spring for dog bites – last month there were 18 reported bites and five are on record for June so far.
Fingar said animal control officers are often faced with questionable dogs. In addition to educating dog owners about keeping their dogs under control, teaching kids about what to do if they are faced with a seemingly vicious dog is perhaps more important in the long run.
“Dogs will be dogs and kids will be kids – we need to remember that. It’s natural for a dog to want to chase and it’s also natural for a kid to scream and run when they are chased,” she said. “If we can get kids to be aware of the right and wrong ways to behave around dogs, it might prevent some future bites. We also need the parents to be on top of things.”
Fingar said some of the key things for children to know are being aware of their surroundings, especially when running, riding a bike or walking the pet dog.
“All these are situations that might attract dogs to you,” she said. “Unfortunately – and people don’t like to hear this – but just about every dog will bite in the right situation.”
n How to be safe. Other simple rules to avoid attack include leaving strays alone and reporting them to animal control authorities, remembering to “be a tree” (legs together, arms in, fists under your neck) if approached, avoid eye contact and “act like a log” (lie face down with feet together and fists folded behind your neck and arms covering your ears) if you are on the ground already. Avoiding animals as they eat or protect their territory is also smart, Fingar said.
Among the top breeds that have been reported as biters are German shepherd, pit bull terrier, rotweiller, akita, cocker spaniel, and chow, Fingar said.
Wolf hybrids are also unpredictable biters, as illustrated by a recent Carson City incident of a large wolf dog who was euthanized days after attacking the owner’s 3-year-old grandaughter and her 5-year-old sister.
Fingar added that she has also been bitten by smaller dog breeds such as Chihuahuas, but it is the larger breeds that do the most damage to children by virtue of their size.
n Quarantine. Dogs who have bitten a human are subject to a 10-day quarantine, Fingar said. If the animal is licensed and has its rabies shots up to date, and if the victim agrees, the quarantine can be either at the animal shelter or in the owner’s home, providing they have the required enclosure.
Depending on the severity of the attack and other variables, fines can be charged to the dog’s owner after an attack. Whether the animal is euthanizd depends on many factors including the severity of the attack and the frequency of reported bites.
According to national statistics compiled by the Veterinary Medical Association, an average of 2-3 million dog bites are reported annually in the United States, representing up to 80 percent of all animal bites.
It is estimated that 30 to 50 percent of the bites are provoked by the victim, usually over territorial disputes. Forty-eight percent of victims are less than 15 years old, typically between 1 and 10 years of age and more than half of all dog bites take place on the dog’s property.
The veterinarians association contends that the dog bite epidemic is largely preventable with education and common sense.
Ironically, David was bitten right before National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
Dogs, cats and ferrets are required to be inoculated for rabies in Douglas County. A low-cost rabies shot clinic will be held today at the shelter, located on Pinenut Road across from the fairgrounds. The cost is $6 per shot, and the hours for the clinic are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 782-9061.
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