What to Do If a Dog or Cat Bites You
A dog or cat bite can be more serious than you think. It’s for this reason that New Jersey has a very strict procedure in place for bites and even scratches that seem minor.
The New Jersey Procedure
You were bitten. Your first course of action? Get medical treatment. Infection is a serious risk, with approximately 100,000 cases of cat scratch fever occurring around the country every year. A doctor can properly clean your wound and let you know what symptoms to look out for that may indicate a more serious problem.
Doctors will also report the bite to the local health department, which is a requirement under New Jersey law. Once the case is reported, the animal will be taken to a shelter for a quarantine of ten days. During this time, the shelter will look for signs of rabies or other illnesses that may require further testing. This is a bigger problem than many people think, as 11 cats in New Jersey alone have already tested positive for rabies this year.
If the animal is showing signs of illness or rabies, a sample will be taken and sent to a lab. Results can take up to five days to be returned to the animal shelter; but when a person is bitten by an infected animal, he or she needs to start taking the rabies vaccine within three days of the bite. For this reason, many doctors and animal shelters will recommend the vaccine be started even before test results are received. Taking the vaccine will not do any harm or cause further sickness to you, even when it is not needed.
Who’s Liable for Bites?
Animal owners should also always make sure their animal’s vaccines are up to date. Aside from concerns over rabies, dog and cat bites can cause serious injuries. Many victims suffer from scarring and disfigurement, especially if they have been bitten several times, particularly on the face.
New Jersey is a strict liability state, which means that animal owners are held responsible any time their animals bite, scratch, or injure another person. The animal’s history of aggressiveness (or lack thereof) is not taken into consideration. In NJ, animals are not subject to the “one-bite rule” that protects the owner the first time his/her animal injures someone.
Unfortunately, children are at much greater risk of bites than most people. If you or your child was bitten by a dog or cat, Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., may be able to help. We are experienced New Jersey bite injury lawyers. Call us at (609) 240-0040 for a free consultation about your legal options.
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