People Are the Solution™
Do people know they are the solution??
I was helping my local shelter improve one of their work processes and happened to be observing the intake counter when a young adult brought in a cat in a storage bin. The young adult had been bitten by the cat, apparently as the person tried to stick their fingers down its throat as the cat was hacking (likely a hairball) and the cat bit the person. The person described the cat as …”just an outside cat I feed, it’s not my cat”, so the person was terrified the cat might have rabies. The cat was surrendered to animal services and the cat served its time in quarantine. The person surrendered the cat, not wanting it back, so once out of quarantine it could go on to be pulled by a transfer partner, with its bite record trailing behind it. Legally the public shelter cannot place a cat or dog, with a bite record, up for adoption in most of the USA.
First, I was surprised about a cat being quarantined just like a dog that bites. I never thought about it—heck Savannah gives me bitey bites when she wants me to leave her alone. But she never breaks the skin and I know she has had her rabies vaccinations. This experience took me on a search to learn how cat bite protocol compares to dog bite protocol when it comes to the attention of public shelters and their animal services officers.
And I learned the protocol for cat bites and dog bites in California is identical. Maybe I am foolish, but I simply never thought about a cat having a “bite” record to follow it through attempts to get adopted or pulled by a transfer partner, but such is the case—at least in California.
General bite quarantine protocol in USA
- Quarantine is the required acknowledgement of an animal to “stay in place.” If the biter dog or cat owner has more than one animal, all animals must stay in place. There is an administrative fee set by each municipal animal shelter that is collected on all off site quarantines. Quarantine fees at shelters will vary in cost $25.00 to as much as $50.00 per day plus an impound fee $50.00 to $75.00.
- Animals at the shelter are placed in a specific quarantine ward away from all other animals and not viewable to public.
- California Health and Safety Code 12710 states: Any person, after being given notice, must produce a biter dog for quarantine to a local health or law enforcement officer. Failure to do so is considered a misdemeanor.
People must realize that when a dog or cat is placed in a situation that leaves it no alternative than to bite, they are establishing a “bite record” for that animal. If the guardians have surrendered the animal, cat or dog, to a municipal shelter because of the bite, the shelter assigns a bite record to the dog or cat and typically will allow it to be “pulled aka rescued” only by a transfer partner private rescue. It is not easy to get a dog or cat adopted once the bite record is set.
Rabies in the USA
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA records a very small number of rabies reported in humans between 2003-2014. None were from cat bites, and only nine were from dog bites out of the thirty-three listed.
However, the number of both cats and dogs tested positive for rabies produced far larger numbers but, and this is important to note, rabies was not passed on to humans in the degree to which it was found in both cat and dog populations in 2014.
The take away from these numbers is that vaccinating your cats and dogs is imperative. If we want to continue control of the incidence of rabies contracted from cats and dogs , then people must vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate for rabies and keep the vaccination up to date.
Preventing dog, cat bites and scratches
People, who learn how to approach, handle and care for both cats and dogs, will go a long way toward preventing cat and dog bites. In particular the cats and dogs need people who are parents to teach their children, all ages, how to behave with caution around any cat or dog—whether their own or someone else’s. There are always negative consequences for the humans who are bitten and the cat and dog doing the biting.
My conversations with animal services officers, and the head veterinarian, at my local shelter also taught me that cat’s, unlike dogs, can be brought into the shelter for quarantine for scratching a human! Of course, anyone who has ever had cats knows that cat scratches come with the territory. They are most often accidental during a play session or when a cat is startled and digs claws in to leap up and away from its human’s lap.
Quoted from John Hopkins Medical Library: “Whether the bite is from a family pet or an animal in the wild, scratches and bites can carry disease. Cat scratches, even from a kitten, can carry “cat scratch disease aka CSD,” a bacterial infection. Other animals can transmit rabies and tetanus. Bites that break the skin are even more likely to become infected.”
But first time cat guardians and their children must learn how to properly play with their new cat, especially if it is a kitten or under the age of about 2-4 years old. If your precious, loving young kitty happens to scratch a friend who is over to play with your child, that child’s parent can ask that your cat be quarantined to insure that their child doesn’t develop Cat Scratch Disease, (aka CSD) or even rabies.
Additionally, CSD is one of the many reasons that I was trained, as a Feline Express™ Driver, in Return to Field to NEVER TOUCH THE COMMUNITY CATS we are returning to the location where they were first trapped. Community cats (aka feral cats) have no veterinary history and they live in places where they can come into contact with other wildlife. Never allow your child to approach a community cat, especially if it has kittens.
People MUST be the solution
Domestic animal bite prevention is the responsibility of all people, whether they have made an animal a part of their family or not. People are the solution to bite prevention. People must educate themselves about proper ways to approach and handle domestic cats and dogs of all ages. Our domestic animals look to us to protect them and make them safe. It is up to us, the people, to insure that our fur companions are not exposed to situations where they might be forced to protect themselves by using their best defensive weapon, their teeth. And with cats, those claws will likely make first contact.
Tell me in comments if you believe that the majority of guardians of companion animals are very aware that they are to solution to preventing dog and cat bites.
This post is the final post in a series being presented by a blogger collaboration who all want to see Dog ( and Cat) Bite Prevention Week become a monthly, even a life time, effort. Please be sure to visit the following blogs to catch up on all four previous Dog (and cat) Bite Prevention posts.
And please don’t stop yet, take a look at these insightful links—
We appreciate any and all shares for each and everyone of the posts in this series.
Let’s all keep our families and companion animals safe from the consequences of domestic animal bites and scratches.