Dog bites in San Diego – the aftermath

Ever wondered what happens next after someone got bitten by a dog? Read this story, written by John Wilkens and published on Signonsandiego.com.

Number of bites has gone up steadily over last four years

Concern creased the mother’s face. Her 11-year-old son had just been attacked by a neighbor’s dog, bit above the right knee as he walked along a street in City Heights.

She waited while county animal control officer Mitchell Levy snapped photos of the wound. She accepted a form to fill out detailing the incident. She nodded when it was explained that the dog, a Welsh corgi mix resting under a nearby tree, would be quarantined and checked for rabies.

The Paradise Hills case touched off a debate here, as it has in cities across the country over the last 30 years, about pit bulls. And it raised questions about how much is being done to protect the public from vicious dogs.

One of the pit bulls in the mauling had bitten another neighbor six months earlier, causing a minor wound. The owner had essentially been given a warning and was allowed to keep the dog.

In emails and phone calls to government officials and the local media, and in comments posted on various websites, some residents expressed outrage about that. In their minds, one bite is too many.

Under county law, though, it takes two bites within a four-year period (or one bite causing “substantial” injury) before authorities can move to declare a dog dangerous and put restrictions on it, up to and including the death penalty.

“Minor bites happen all the time,” said Dawn Danielson, director of animal services. “Declaring a dog dangerous based on a singular incident would be analogous to putting someone in state prison based on the first minor infraction.”

She said most owners learn from a first incident “and take corrective measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Most people want to be responsible pet owners but accidents happen.”

In the case of the corgi, the mother’s question — No más perro? — seemed especially potent a few minutes later when Levy returned to his truck and logged onto a laptop computer to check the dog’s history.

Turns out Sparky bit another boy, this one 8 years old, about three weeks earlier. The dog was quarantined, didn’t have rabies, and was returned to the owner on July 2 with a warning to prevent a recurrence.

Four days later, Sparky bit the 11-year-old boy.

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