Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness For Attorneys

Richard H. Polsky, Ph.D. CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

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Rabies from dog bites still prevalent in many countries

Despite the economic and technological advances in Third World countries in the last 20 years, infection from rabies still remains prevalent. Experts continue to warn travelers to India, and to countries in Africa and Latin America, that vaccination against rabies is needed before traveling to these countries. Travelers are warned to avoid interacting with stray dogs because even if scratched by a stray dog, this could result in the transmission of the disease. And if the person is bitten or scratched, then they may be out of luck, because rabies vaccine in many countries is in short supply. Rabies is an acute viral infection of the central nervous system. The virus is usually transmitted through a dog bite. Annually, there are an estimated 40,000 – 55,000 deaths worldwide from rabies infection. In India, 20,000 people die every year, mainly in rural areas, because of a bite from a rabid animal. Without the rabies vaccination, fatality is certain in 100% of the cases.

Approximately 90% of deaths caused by rabies happen in Third World countries, particularly in India, where stray dogs are commonly found roaming in the streets. In contrast, for example, rabies is rare in advanced Western countries such as the UK, where just 12 cases have been reported since 1977, In 11 of these cases rabies was contracted when the person was traveling abroad, and in one case A rabies fatality occurred due to the person being bitten by a bat.

One case in the literature describes a woman, a vacationer from England in her late 30s, who was admitted to the hospital after returning to England with shooting pain in her lower back and left leg. Three and a half months earlier, during her trip to India, she had sustained a scratch a puppy in Goa. It left a slight graze, but she did not seek medical help, and she had not received a vaccination before traveling. She was diagnosed with rabies after her return and died after 18 days in a hospital.

Despite its prevalence in Third World countries, efforts to curtail rabies outbreak caused by dog bites is still lacking, partially because there is a shortage of rabies vaccine in many countries, and also undoubtedly because of limited efforts to control the stray dog population in many countries. Note, however, China has adopted the barbaric policy of killing dogs on-site in an attempt to control rabies outbreak.


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