Rabid wildlife has attacked two Brunswick residents and two dogs in recent days. While references to Stephen King’s “Cujo” will no doubt abound, the fact remains summer is already the most dangerous time of year for Maine dog bite injuries; confirmed cases of rabies in the area will only serve to increase the risks. While Stephen King’s 1981 classic depicted the horror faced by a mother and son held captive in rural Maine by a rabid dog, the truth of the matter is that mandatory pet vaccines throughout the majority of the country have drastically reduced the risks.
However, Maine is among the states that still report the most cases each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports rabies is a preventable disease of mammals, transported most often through the bite of another rabid animal. The vast majority of reported cases each year occur in wild animals, including raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks. Untreated, the virus infects the central nervous system and leads to brain disease and death. Death occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.
In the Brunswick case this month, the Bangor Daily News reports a 72-year-old woman was bitten by a gray fox. A 27-year-old neighbor was also bitten while trying to detain the fox for authorities. In a separate incident, two dogs were bitten by a rabid skunk. As of June, Maine has had 18 confirmed cases of rabies reported statewide.
Most dog bite cases will not involve rabies, of course. But the presence of the disease has put the focus on dog bite prevention as we enter the height of the summer months.
Dog bites are a shockingly common occurrence. In fact, dog bite injuries are a leading cause of liability lawsuits against homeowner’s insurance policies. More than 4.5 million dog bites are reported each year, and nearly 30,000 victims are injured seriously enough to require surgery. Maine dog bite lawyers know many of these cases involve children. Infection and scarring are common consequences.
Those bitten by someone’s pet may be able to collect damages.
Maine is a strict liability state, having rejected the one-bite rule in 2001. Many states follow the one-bite rule, which essentially gives dog owners a free pass the first time their dog bites someone. Maine’s law only applies to victims who are not on a dog owner’s property at the time of an incident. Maine Statute Title 7 §3961: Reimbursement for damage done by animals, states:
“The owner or keeper of the dog is liable in a civil action to the person injured for the amount of the damages. Any fault on the part of the person injured may not reduce the damages recovered for physical injury to that person unless the court determines that the fault of the person injured exceeded the fault of the dog’s keeper or owner.”
Those bitten by a wild animal should wash with soap and water and call the Maine Centers for Disease Control. Calls about dangerous wild animals should also be directed to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Issues involving pets are handled through the local animal control office.
For help with Maine dog bite injury claims, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Maine Revised Statute Title 7 Agriculture and Animals, Maine Legislature