Editorial: Most animal bites involve family dogs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2018

A few weeks ago, the Enterprise Record reported on a coyote attack just off the square in Downtown Mocksville.

Petty scary stuff, the coyote apparently bit a young girl while she was playing on a swing, and bit her father when he came to her aid.

Did it have rabies?

Nobody knows, because the animal escaped.

Our article hinted that wild animals are out there, and they can have rabies. That was true. They can have rabies, but most likely, especially in the cases involving domestic animals and coyotes, the answer is no, they don’t have rabies.

In the past year and a half, Davie County has had just two confirmed cases of rabies. Both were a fox, according to the Davie County Health Department, which keeps records on such things. More people have had to have rabies shots, however, because the animal that bit them was never found or because it was a domestic animal that wasn’t up-to-date on vaccinations.

Since Jan. 1, 2017, according to statistics with the Davie Sheriff’s Department and animal control, approximately 66 animal bites were investigated.

Almost all of those involved dogs, and most were the family’s dog, or a friend or neighbor’s dog. In one, a child fell off of a couch onto the dog and was bitten. Another time, someone stepped on their dog’s tail and was bitten. Children hugging a dog were bitten several times, once the family dog, the others by dogs belonging to friends or neighbors.

Several were from people trying to break up fights among dogs. Three were people feeding feral cats. Three of the victims were bitten by their own cat. Deputies serving warrants have been bitten three times, as have employees at vetinary offices. A FedEx driver was bitten, as was a door-to-door salesperson. Two people walking for exercise were bitten.

There was one reported fox bite.

The point is, you are much more likely to be bitten by your own dog or a neighbor’s dog than by a wild animal.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t take precautions, especially with small animals and children. Coyotes have been known to attack people, cows and pets. And while the number of coyotes in Davie County appears to be on the increase, there is no indication they’re infested with rabies. That is confirmed by law enforcement, and by coyote hunters, two of whom said they’ve never seen a rabid coyote.

A neighbor of mine once had a dog that was pretty much harmless — unless you tried to get into it’s owners house or tried to pet it. Imagine my horror when a young girl in the neighborhood was walking her dog, and the two dogs got into a growling match. The young girl went up to the “mean” dog and hugged it. I was already searching for my cell phone to call 911, but the “mean” dog wasn’t that mean after all. No one was bitten.

Folks, teach your children how to act around animals. For example, they need to know not to approach an unfamiliar dog, not to run from a dog and not to disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies. Don’t pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first. Dog owners can do their part by not encouraging aggressive behavior, especially if the dog runs loose.

In many years of running, I’ve encountered dozens of dogs. Territorial, usually they’ll back off after you are out of their “territory.” I was never bitten, but one bit at me and got its tooth stuck in my sock. A quick kick to the ribs by the other foot solved that situation.

To sum it up, be careful out there. And at home. Animals — wild and domestic — serve useful purposes. It’s up to us to know how to behave around them.