What do you do when it’s your dog that bites?
My son, Connor, and I recently had that experience, and besides wrestling with your conscience as to what is morally necessary and appropriate, you do have certain legal obligations you need to satisfy.
Brody, Connor’s dog, was born on the mean streets of Flint, and maybe as a consequence he had a mean streak that no amount of love could extinguish. Regardless, on Jan. 5, while staying with Connor’s friend in Ohio, Brody bit a young woman. Fortunately, her wound appears to be healing well, and I am helping Connor deal with the obvious civil consequences of his dog’s act. But what does the state or your municipality require of you under such circumstances?
In Wadsworth, Ohio, state and local law mirror one another, and while we violated the letter of both, we complied with the spirit of the law. Within 24 hours you are to report a dog bite to the local health department, have the dog examined by a veterinarian and confine the dog for a minimum of 10 days for observation. Additionally, the dog is not to be removed from the county where the bite took place.
Connor’s friend initially confined Brody, but because Connor was in the midst of moving home to Michigan, he had to choose to either have Brody impounded for 10 days in Ohio or bring him home. He brought him home.
The logic of the law is to ensure that the victim has not contracted an infectious disease from the bite, particularly rabies, and to maintain control over the dog to confirm that. Knowing that, we felt we could honor the spirit of the law, even though I have now confessed to violating the animal control laws of Wadsworth, Ohio.
Here in Ingham County, Mich., we have an Animal Control Ordinance that requires the owner of a dog that has bitten anyone to handle the dog “in accordance with the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians Inc., (NASPHV Inc.), Compendium of Animal Rabies Control 1989, as amended.” Like Ohio law, the compendium recommends confinement and observation for 10 days, with the dog to be evaluated by a veterinarian at the first sign of any illness.
Connor brought Brody home Jan. 7, and for the next nine days we confined and observed him with great love and affection, which was returned many times over. On Jan. 16 (with Connor at his side) we did the right thing and had our veterinarian put Brody down, after examining him to ensure he was not suffering from any contagious diseases. The young woman who was bitten has been provided with confirmation from our veterinarian that Brody was healthy at the time of his death, and hopefully she will continue to heal both physically and emotionally.
As for Connor and I, while we did not follow the letter of the law, we respected its intent and purpose, and in the end, did the right thing.
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