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Animal bite reports on the rise in Yellowstone County

Posted at 12:56 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 14:56:42-04

(RiverStone Health Press Release)

BILLINGS - Yellowstone County has seen a sharp spike in animal bites in July, RiverStone Health, Yellowstone County’s public health agency reports.

Last week, July 11-17, RiverStone Health received 36 animal bite reports. Eighteen animal bite cases were reported the week of July 4-10.

Reports of people being bitten by animals typically increase in summer months, but the recent rise is unusual. In the first six months of 2021, RiverStone Health received 216 animal bite reports from Billings Animal Control. Additional reports were submitted by Yellowstone County Animal Control and local hospitals and clinics.

RiverStone Health received 91 animal bite reports in all of 2020 and 87 in 2019.

Last week alone, reports included dogs who bit their owners or others while playing, dogs that were over-excited and jumping when the owner came home from work, and leashed dogs that were not controlled by their owners. Several cat bites were reported last week as well.

In addition to trauma and injuries that may require medical attention, animal bites carry the risk of rabies from unvaccinated animals. A few of the 36 bite reports involved bats, several involved cats, but most were dog bites. About half of the dogs had bitten their owner or a family member. Many of those biting dogs weren’t current on rabies vaccines and several had never been vaccinated.

The victims included adults and children of all ages, many of whom sought treatment in hospital emergency departments.

Responsible pet ownership is key to preventing bites. First, make sure your dogs, cats and pet ferrets are current on rabies vaccination. A rabies vaccine administered by your veterinarian provides protection for three years.

So far this year, Yellowstone County has already had lab-confirmed cases of rabies in a skunk and a bat. Such wild animals can infect an unvaccinated pet and that can put people at risk for this fatal disease.

Because rabies is always fatal, animal bite victims may be advised by their doctor to get rabies preventive shots if the biting animal can’t be found and quarantined. The series of rabies shots is expensive, costing an average of $15,000 for an adult.

Many Americans adopted new pets since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. Some pets are spending more time home alone these days as owners return to work outside their home. Whatever the reason for the explosion of bite cases, the basic prevention steps are the same:

Take care of your pets, socialize them and train them in basic obedience, follow your veterinarian’s advice, keep pets under control, supervise children around pets and don’t encourage behavior that may result in biting during play.