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When The Dog Bites: How Doctors, Police Respond To Attacks

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The following is the second of a two-part report. Read the first part here.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- After pouring over hospital records, Dr. Jim Dwyer, Chief of Emergency Services at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, counted that the hospital treated 114 dog bite injuries in 2013 alone.

Out of these 114 bites, a handful could be classified as "severe."

"Statistically, about one in every three days we’re seeing a dog bite. They're fairly common," he said.

According to Dwyer, what's done in the immediate aftermath of a dog attack, in some cases, can mean the difference between life or death.

Dwyer said when a human is bitten by a dog, it may inflict crush injuries, damage nerves and bones, or break bones altogether. Therefore, the first priority is to contain the bleeding.

The next priority is to irrigate wounds and clean them out, due to a high risk of infection. Doctors will sometimes not close extremity wounds out of fear of closing in the bacteria.

Additionally, plastic surgeons and hand surgeons are often called to repair tendons, fractures and complex lacerations in the face.

Dwyer said when deciding whether or not a dog bite needs medical attention, one should consider the nature of the dog

If the dog is unknown to you, medical attention should be taken immediately to begin rabies treatment - as untreated rabies is universally fatal.

"If it was the family dog who nipped you, and you know it's been fully tested and has its shots, then you can just clean out very well," he said. "You should watch the dog for weird behavior, regardless."

Dwyer added if the wound bleeds heavily, or if the victim experiences numbness or loss of sensation, they should be taken to the emergency room.

Yonkers police spokesman Lt. Patrick McCormack said whenever they receive a report of a dog attack, an incident report must be completed, along with notifying the Health Department.

"We make every attempt to identify the owner and dog," he said. "After an attack, the owner must confine the dog for 10 days, according to New York State public health laws."

After the Health Department is notified, the police will issue any summons related to the incident.

"For any possible criminal offenses related to the incident, we consult with District Attorney's office," he said.

McCormack said in the case of loose or stray dogs, police officers will call the animal shelter, who will take possession of dog.

Additionally, Yonkers police and other municipalites' police departments work closely with the SPCA of Westchester, who carry out their own investigations of animal abuse.


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