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Dog Bites & Animal Attacks
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Dog Bites: When is Rabies a Risk?

Its bad enough dealing with dog bites. Rabies adds another layer of fear to an already stressful - and potentially painful - situation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States. Few actually result in transmitting rabies to a human, but the risk is real and serious.

That risk is reduced when the dogs owner can be identified and records retrieved to show that the dog was current in its rabies vaccinations. However, if the dog is a stray or the owner cannot be identified, medical providers may assume the worst and give you a series of painful and expensive rabies shots.

How Do You Know if a Dog That Bites You Has Rabies?

One of the ways rabies is transmitted is through contact with saliva, which is considered an infectious material. An unprovoked attack by an animal is more likely than a provoked attack to indicate that an animal is rabid, according to the CDC. A provoked attack includes bites inflicted on a person attempting to feed or handle an apparently healthy dog.

If the authorities, whether local law enforcement or animal control, are able to take possession of the dog that bit you, the dog will be confined and observed for 10 days to see if any signs of rabies emerge. If the dog makes it through the period of observation without presenting signs of being rabid, you will not need to be vaccinated. If at any time, the dog does seem rabid, you will immediately begin the vaccines, as dog-bite-caused rabies can be fatal.

If the dog is unknown, your medical professionals will look at the geographical area of the attack to see if there have been any rabies cases originating in that area recently .Some areas are more prone to rabies than others because of the type of wildlife found in the area.

Rabid dogs are euthanized, and their head is removed and shipped, under refrigeration, for examination by a qualified laboratory, according to the CDC.

Can You Sue After Your Dog Bite?

Dog bites are a common type of personal injury lawsuit that an attorney might file on behalf of an injured victim. However, you may have no case if you are unable to determine the owner.

Even if the dogs owner cannot be found, the property owner where the attack occurred may share some of the responsibility for your dog-bite treatment and rabies scare. To find out if the property owner in any way contributed to your exposure to the dog bite, consult a personal injury lawyer. Such first-time consultations are typically free, and many personal injury lawyers work on contingency; that is, they do not ask for a retainer up front but take a percentage of any award or settlement you might receive. Their willingness to file your lawsuit is a sign that you may have a good case.

To adequately protect a dog-bite victim from contracting rabies, medical professionals will administer three to five shots of the rabies vaccine, which can cost several thousand dollars. If you cannot afford the treatment and you have no way to sue for reimbursement, the CDC offers a patient assistance program.