Animal Bites


People are bitten by both domestic and wild animals. You can take precautions dealing with wild animals by understanding their nature and avoiding contact. See the Wildlife Section for information on dealing with wildlife in the suburban environment.

California regulations mandates that all bites from animals susceptible to rabies (viz. mammals) be reported to the local health officer.

Animals provide numerous benefits to humans, and interaction with them can enhance both physical and psychological health. However, such interactions are not always benign or without adverse consequence. When threatened, many animals will bite as a defensive behavior. An animal may bite in response to fear or pain, in an attempt to assert dominance, or to protect its territory, food, and offspring.

• Animal Bite Prevention
Animal bites can be classified as provoked or unprovoked. Provoked bites are considered normal behavior and occur when the animal responds to a perceived threat to its body (fear-induced), food (possessive), territory, or offspring (protective). Approximately 50 percent of dog bites are classified as provoked, compared to nearly 90 percent of cat bites.

• Animal Bite Prevention
Most animal bites are potentially preventable. Animal bite prevention involves all parties associated with a potential bite incident—bite victim, animal owner, and the community at large. Each has a role to play to reduce the occurrences of animal bites.

• Potential Victim
It is estimated that 30 to 90 percent of dog bites are in some manner provoked. Children especially should be taught how to interact safely with dogs known to them and avoid contact with dogs unknown to them. Children too young to appreciate and learn these techniques should be supervised at all times when a dog is present. Young children should never be left alone with a dog, even one known to them.

• Animal Owner
Animal owners have legal responsibility for their animals’ actions, whether on or off their property.