BILLINGS - According to RiverStone Health in Billings, there has been a significant increase in animal bites this year. In a press release, RiverStone noted there were 36 animal bite reports last week (July 11-17) alone, and 18 from July 4 to 10.
Bite reports around the summer months tend to rise every year, but this year has been unusually high, according to RiverStone.
Leyna Kingman, the administrative projects coordinator for RiverStone Health, said Thursday afternoon that the increase has been huge.
"In 2019 and 2020 years we received a little less than 100 reports for the full year. This year, city Animal Control has already received reports of 260 animal bites," said Kingman.
Kingman said the situations leading up to the bites and the severity of each varied between each incident.
Kingman said there is some speculation as to the exact cause of increased bit reports this year. She said it could be due to the amount of pet adoptions during quarantine.
"A lot of folks were at home with their families or by themselves and it was probably a great time to adopt a pet. Now that these folks are going back to work, these pets are probably facing separation anxiety, there might be a lack of training, and so with that we are seeing an increase," said Kingman.
Kingman said the majority of these reports are from incidents where a person is bit by their own pet. She said pets that become overly excited when their owner returns home and pets that are not trained correctly when playing can accidentally bite their owner and break skin. These are the two main causes for bites that RiverStone Health has seen.
Kingman said that dogs make up the majority of bite reports, but they are not the only animals that have been reported to bite. Cats, bats and other animals have been included in the bite reports as well.
She said it is important to make sure that all domestic domesticated pets are up to date on rabies vaccinations. One of the main concerns for people that are victims up animal bites are the potential viruses.
"What we do as the public health department is make a determination whether the bite victim needs to go forward with treatments, and that's called post-exposure prophylaxis," said Kingman.
This treatment is a series of shots administered to the victim that kill any potential rabies virus.
For people that have recently adopted a new pet or want to learn more about how to approach strange animals and avoid bites, Leonard Houser, owner of Thunder Ridge Kennels in Billings, says it's important that people learn more about dogs and understand how they operate.
"Well it's approaching them, you don't want to make eye contact. If a dog looks fearful of direct eye contact keep your eyes low. You can come in and bend down and give them a place to come and talk in a nice tone. Tone of voice is really important," said Houser.
He said that if you are afraid of the dog, they will sense it and respond out of fear.
Houser has been working with dogs for over 40 years and has been a professional trainer for 35. He said that over the course of his career he has had to evaluate the behavior of plenty of dogs for the courts due to bite incidents.
He said this year he has gotten a lot more calls.
Similar to Kingman, Houser said he suspects the increase in bites are related to the uptick in pet adoptions during the pandemic.
"More people have new dogs that don't have enough experience and they don't quite understand," said Houser