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Doctor Reporting Obligations

Do doctors in California have an obligation to report dog bites?

According to California state legislation, doctor are required to report dog bite incidents for which their medical treatment or evaluation services are requested. Doctors are obliged to report such incidents even if the dog bite does not result in serious injury or bodily harm to the victim, and even if the dog is determined to have been vaccinated for rabies and not infected at the time of the incident.

Doctors’ dog bite reports are forwarded to local public health and regulatory officials, so that they are wary of the dog’s vaccination status. Dog bites are not report to regulatory public health official in the case of dog on dog attacks.

Which law dictates and oversee doctors’ obligation to report dog bites?

The law that oversees and obligates doctors to report dog bites is California Code of Regulations 2606.

This bit of legislation requires all individuals to make a formal report to local authorities if a human is bitten or attacked by a dog. The report is forwarded to regional public health authorities for review.

Reports are especially crucial to file when an individual is bitten by a dog known to be in a rabies prevalent area. Counties with high prevalence of rabies are often declared by the Director of the State Department of Health Services. Since 1987, the Director has designated as many as 58 California counties to be prevalent rabies regions.

What formally constitutes or defines a “rabies region”?

A “rabies region” according to California legislation, is an area or county which has been declared a rabies hazard, and that is known to have previous rabies outbreaks. A “rabies region” is a known public health hazard. The Director of the State Department of Health Services is responsible for declaring which counties in California are “rabies regions.”

It is imperative that doctors in California counties report dog bites when it impacts the human population, in order to track potential rabies outbreak. Even mild dog bites that do not result in injury or skin breakage must be reported to local authorities.

To what degree must an individual be injured in order to qualify for a dog bite report?

Regardless of the degree or severity of the dog bite injury, it must be reported to appropriate public health authorities.

Consider the following fictitious scenario: Amber is being treated by an emergency room physician after playing with a neighbor’s dog, who shoved her causing her to break her ankle. Amber also indicates that the dog bit her during the incident. The physician notices teeth marks on Amber’s ankle but no puncturing in her skin.

What are the steps to filing an official dog bite report?

Each individual county in California has unique reporting stipulations. Ultimately, however, all counties report to dog bite incidents to the local public health authorities and departments. In some counties, animal country constitutes as the appropriate authority to track dog bite incidents. Dog bite reports can be submitted by email, fax or regular postal mail service.

In order to file a dog bite report it is imperative to include the following details:
• The time and location of the incident
• The contact information of all parties involved
• The name and identity of the individual that was bitten
• The name and identity of the dog owner whose dog was responsible for the attack
• A formal description of the dog including size, color, disposition and breed
• A brief description of the wound
• The location on the body of the incurred wound or injury
• The specific medical treatment that was administered to the site of the injury including the name of the administering physician

You can find the county specific local health reporting processes and procedures in the list linked below:
• Alameda County,
• Fresno County,
• Los Angeles County,
• Orange County,
• Sacramento County,
• San Bernardino County,
• San Diego County,
• San Francisco County,
• Santa Barbara County, and
• Santa Clara County.

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