In the past two weeks, three Franklin County residents have been injured by dog bites requiring one victim to be transported to St. Louis for expanded medical care.
The three recent cases bring the animal bite total reported to the Franklin County Health Department to 31 thus far in 2018.
Twenty-three of those bites were from dogs and nine of those were pit bulls.
Public Health Supervisor Tony Buel says to be classified as a bite, the skin has to be broken.
Law enforcement, hospitals, urgi-cares and school nurses are mandatory reporters. Only bites from mammals are reportable.
Buel said 2017 was the first year he began keeping track of the specific breeds and most cases have involved pit bulls.
“The majority of the bites we see are from dogs,” Buel said. “Pit bulls are the main breed we see bites from, Jack Russell terriers are No. 2 and then mixed breeds.”
According to Buel, bites can happen anywhere at anytime and there is no specific area where they see more or less.
“We get reports of dog bites from every ZIP code in the county,” Buel said. “In most cases the animal is known to the person who gets bit.”
Although the dog bites come from all breeds, Buel said the cases with the worst damage almost always involve pit bulls.
When a bite is reported, law enforcement is notified and if possible the animal is quarantined, or watched for 10 days. If it is still alive after 10 days, it is negative for rabies.
“Animal bites take up a lot of our time,” Buel said. “We pretty much talk to every victim and every animal owner. We will also call veterinarians to see if the animal’s vaccinations are up to date.”
Because they do not carry rabies, bites from rodents or reptiles are not reportable to the health department.
Buel said the bites from wild animals generally come if the animal is startled or trapped.
For all of 2017, 219 animal bites were reported to the health department; 193 of those were dog bites and 43 came from pit bulls.
With the majority of severe injury dog bites coming from pit bulls, Franklin County First District Commissioner Tim Brinker says something may need to be done to prevent these attacks in the future.
“We (commission) will definitely look into it and see what other counties have done,” Brinker said.
In recent years pit bulls and other large dog breeds have been labeled as dangerous due to documented attacks on humans and their use in illegal fighting rings.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Department Road Division Lt. Adam Albert says they have not had to deal directly with any pit bull breeding or fighting rings, but understands the stigma that follows them.
According to the Franklin County Clerk’s office, there are no restrictions on dog breeds in the books for the county, nor is it necessary for breeders to obtain a business license if they do not live within a particular municipality.
Neither the city of Washington nor Union have any ordinances that restrict a specific dog breed, but do require any animal that has attacked someone in the past and is deemed dangerous to be registered with the city.