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Despite bait program, rabies may be an issue in animal bites

A bait program initiated this spring that aimed at preventing wild animals from contracting rabies and then spreading the disease onto pets and people has seen considerable success according to the co-chair of the Cape Cod Rabies Task Force. In Massachusetts there are two strains of rabies. One strain infects land mammals and another infects bats. A dead bat found in a residence on Martha's Vineyard in February was determined to be rabid.

Rabies is spread through the saliva of the animal carrying the disease should the animal bite. Symptoms include fever, headache, discomfort and will go on to cause mental health problems, paralysis, fear of water and excessive salivating. If left untreated, the rabies victim can die in a matter of days.

If a person is bitten by a pet that has had an encounter with a wild animal, that person should immediately seek medical care, in case the pet was rabid. A series of rabies vaccine injections can prevent the person from contracting the disease.

Under Massachusetts law, pet owners must ensure their pet's rabies vaccinations are up to date. If a pet owner has violated this law and their pet bites another person, not only is the person suffering from an animal bite, but they may also have contracted a very serious disease. Even if the animal was not rabid, animal bites can cause infection and disfigurement. Massachusetts law imposes strict liability on pet owners whose animal attacks. This means that, in general, pet owners are responsible for their pet's actions, regardless of whether the animal was off-leash or there was a "dangerous dog" sign on their property, unless the victim was a trespasser or provoked the animal. Thus, those who have been bitten by a dog in Massachusetts will want to seek immediate medical care, and then determine what their legal options are moving forward.

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