What happens when Animal Control shows up?
April 26, 2011 2:42 PM   Subscribe

What happens when a dog bite gets reported to the state of Pennsylvania?

My friend's 7-year-old got bit by his black lab. The dog was trying to grab something else but missed and got him in the thigh by mistake. It bruised a very small amount but did not break the skin.

The dog is seriously one of the least aggressive, most well-trained dogs I have met in a while. Gets along well with their smaller and equal-sized dogs. Never shown aggression to anyone. I can't see him biting anyone intentionally.

He has been vaccinated in the past but has not gotten a rabies booster for probably three years or so.

My friend's son went to the school nurse this morning to complain about it. The kid does this a lot, about almost anything--stomachaches, invisible splinters, fights with friends, etc. The school nurse is a mandated reporter, though, and apparently called the state of Pennsylvania.

The family will be devastated if the dog has to be euthanized.

What happens now? I'm assuming Animal Control shows up for a visit. Is there any recourse he has?

Throwaway email: dogbitethrowaway@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAL. Dog laws differ state to state. This site generally has good information. Because your friend's son will probably not sue his parents over this, the issue is not what happens to the dog now, but rather what happens the NEXT time the dog has a biting incident, now that the dog has a reported history of aggression. It's probably worth working with a behaviorist or a trainer now both to inhibit the behavior and to have a record that this is a problem the family is taking seriously.
posted by judith at 3:05 PM on April 26, 2011

Here are the PA statutes relating to dog bites: http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/stuspa3ps459_502.htm

§ 459-505-A. -- This is about what happens when the warden shows up.
§ 459-502-A. -- This is about what the warden will be looking for to make a determination about the incident, and what will happen if the warden concludes that the dog is dangerous.
§ 459-502. -- Dog bites; detention and isolation of dogs -- This is about isolation of the dog in case it has rabies. It looks like they allow people to keep the dog in their home for the isolation period in at least some cases.

So, the statutes don't say that the dog is just taken and euthanized. They say that the dog is isolated for 10 days, the warden investigates to see whether the dog is dangerous, and if the dog is found to be dangerous there are other consequences that are also on that page including confining and registering the dog-- not necessarily euthanasia.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:07 PM on April 26, 2011

It's also probably worth explaining to the 7 year old that complaining sometimes gets us far more than we bargained for. Hope it works out for your friends.
posted by cyndigo at 3:08 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would be wary of telling the kid that "complaining sometimes gets us far more than we bargained for," especially in this situation. You're setting him up for potentially:
a) feeling responsible for something happening to his family dog, should it come to that (no kid needs that on his shoulders)
b) feeling that he shouldn't tell anyone ("complain") if someone ever hurts/abuses him
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:34 PM on April 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

Yeah, the parents shouldn't go all "This is what happens, Larry!" on him, but assuming that nothing negative comes of this (probably the case), there's no harm in explaining that it's possible for adults to misunderstand complaints (as in this case), which can have consequences.

Every dog occasionally bites a little harder than it means to while playing or when food is involved. I imagine that a non-zero percentage of those somehow get reported through channels like the one here. I feel like there would be outrage if even one case of a loving, well-trained family dog having a one-time slip and being euthanized for it were made public.
posted by supercres at 3:47 PM on April 26, 2011

I don't know what happens in PA, but here's my experience in UT.

My son was bit on his head and face by the incredibly aggressive dog next door. Broke the skin, bled, bruised. I called animal control and my son saw the doctor. No stitches were needed.

The dog was taken and quarantined for two weeks and the owners were able to get him out. They had to pay a fine as well as the cost to board and feed the dog for the time it was "locked up". Then life went on like nothing happened. (Except that I kept my kids very far from that stupid, vicious animal.)

Last summer my dog killed a cat that came into our yard. She just played with it too hard and I think either snapped it's neck or gave the poor thing a heart attack. I thought it was the neighbor's pet so I called Animal Control to report it. (Turned out it was just a stray, FYI.)

Animal Control did exactly the same thing to my dog as they did to the dog that bit my son except that I only had to pay the boarding fees and not the fine. The total came to $250. If Animal Control does come for your friends' dog I expect that something similar to my experience will probably happen.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:10 PM on April 26, 2011

Since the bite did not break the skin, I'd personally be pretty surprised if Animal Control showed up at all.

No skin break means that there's no possibility of rabies transmission, which rules out the isolation period. Honestly, I'd ask the school nurse why she thought it necessary to report a bite that didn't break the skin -- I was a professional pet groomer for many years and got bitten by quite a few dogs during that time. We were mandatory reporters, and we didn't report anything that didn't break the skin.
posted by Concolora at 4:25 PM on April 26, 2011

Don't bug the nurse, she was just doing her job.

I would take a picture of the bruise now, just in case.
posted by that's how you get ants at 4:32 PM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

So you say "reported to the State" - was this reported to the Department of Health (DoH), to the police, or to some other agency?

Nurses and other health care providers in Pennsylvania are required to report animal bites to the DoH within 24 hours.

I am not in PA, but reporting any animal bite (regardless of apparent degree of injury) is pretty commonly mandated by local health departments partly because rabies can be transmitted from very small, very shallow bites and scratches. A groomer can be pretty sure about what animal bit the worker or customer, and might even have access to the animal's immunization history. A school nurse sees a bruise and hears a kid's explanation. That's all s/he has to work with, which is why it's the DoH's responsibility to investigate.

On receipt of any animal bite report, a DoH specialist will investigate and determine the type of animal, the nature of the bite, the animal's medical history, the likelihood of exposure to rabies or other pathogens. In the case of a domestic pet, the DoH worker will very probably refer the matter of whether the pet's a problem biter to someone else (maybe State dog warden or animal control officer or police) because it falls well outside the purview of public health. Sometimes there are even specific intraagency guidelines for when to refer - this might, if it was originally reported to DoH, be as far as it goes.

(I am an epidemiologist waaaay outside this jurisdiction.)
posted by gingerest at 8:54 PM on April 26, 2011

My old dachshund bit my little brother under similar circumstances about 7 years ago. He did break the skin and my brother's hand started to get infected so we went to his school nurse (he was in high school at the time). The wound was treated, and animal control was called. They came by the house to verify that the dog was not an out of control monster (which he was not, he was just a dachshund), and he was quarantined at home for a week or two while they did some blood work).

Keep in mind this was in Virginia, and the bite was a bit more severe, but in these sorts of situations if animal control gets involved they are generally not looking for an excuse to euthanize the animal.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:10 AM on April 27, 2011

« Older Help me find a webcomic and a webstory   |   Can TikiWiki handle my very specific project? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.