Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dog rules bite owners, but based in community health precautions

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 5/26/2014

Her dog isn’t the same, Dee Vollmar said. The pup just isn’t as happy.

Vollmar’s American bulldog was in his crate at home when a child, who Vollmar thought was about 16, stuck his finger into the crate, she said. The dog reacted by biting the child’s finger, Vollmar said.

Her dog isn’t the same, Dee Vollmar said. The pup just isn’t as happy.

Vollmar’s American bulldog was in his crate at home when a child, who Vollmar thought was about 16, stuck his finger into the crate, she said. The dog reacted by biting the child’s finger, Vollmar said.

The Ottawa Police Department soon arrived to take the dog to a local veterinarian for observation, Vollmar said, but it hasn’t been the same since.

“After [my dog] came home the first time, [my neighbor] came over to get him, he flattened out on his belly with all fours out,” Vollmar said of her dog, which typically reacted with excitement when seeing the neighbor before the incident. “He wasn’t hyper or nothing. He just flattened out.

“He’s just very different. He hangs on to me and won’t let me out of my sight,” she said.

The parent of the bitten teen took the child to the doctor, who was required to call the police, Vollmar said. According to city ordinance, doctors in Ottawa are legally obligated to report dog bites to law enforcement. The dog later was returned to Vollmar, but she still isn’t happy about the city ordinance.

“He was a stranger,” Vollmar said of the teen. “Most dogs are going to protect their house. That dog knew it was his cage, a stranger walks in, what’s a dog supposed to think?”

According to city codes, animals that bite a person must be seized and transported to a veterinarian. The codes state, “Any owned or wanted dog, cat or ferret which has bitten a person and has thereby caused a laceration of the skin of such person shall be reported immediately and seized and confined in a veterinary hospital or animal shelter approved by the local health officer or his/her designee for a period of not less than 10 days at the expense of the owner of the dog, cat or ferret.”

Larabe Alexander, community service officer for Ottawa Police Department, said the practice of seizing the dogs is a safety precaution. Such situations sometimes occur three to four times a month. Alexander takes the dogs to a veterinarian, usually the owner’s preferred doctor, he said.

Animals “quarantined” by the police department are handled in accordance with local and state regulations, Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, said. He said seizing a dog is mandated at both levels.

“We do not like removing dogs from homes, but there are state health regulations that require such actions when warranted,” Butler said.

And the ordinance doesn’t just apply to dogs.

“As you can read in the statute, it applies to any animal that has bitten and lacerated on a person and does not mention if it is suspected of rabies,” Butler said.

The county’s regulations are linked to state-level laws, Midge Ransom, Franklin County Health Department director, said. The quarantining of animals is done to prevent the spread of disease.

“As far as the health department is concerned, quarantine is reserved for animals with the risk of transmitting rabies,” Ransom said. “It is up to the health officer to determine risk, which we do on a case-by-case basis.”

Quarantining helps determine if vaccination for a person or animal is needed, Ransom said.

“For our purposes, some animals could be quarantined at home,” she said. “While we are willing to cooperate with the city, our authority does not rest with the city ordinance, rather with state regulations.”

Bite prevention

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has asked state residents to be aware of the potential of unattended dogs harming children, according to a news release.

“Dogs are wonderful companions for many individuals and families,” Dr. Ingrid Garrison, state public health veterinarian, said. “Unfortunately children are the most common victims of dog bites and they are often bitten by dogs they know.”

Many bites are preventable, through a combined effort of responsible dog ownership and adults teaching children how, or if, they should approach a dog, the release said. The department’s suggestions on how to approach a dog include:

• Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.

• Do not run from a dog or scream.

• Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.

• “Be still like a tree” when approached by an unfamiliar dog.

• Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.

• Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.

• If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and be still.

• Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior.

• If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.

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