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Biting dog sought to rule out rabies

Cory Fisher

Jason Rust is hoping the owner of the black Labrador retriever that bit him will come forward. Health officials said Friday that the 7-year-old Tahoe Valley Elementary School student will have to undergo a series of painful rabies shots if the dog is not identified and proven healthy.

“Rabies is endemic in this county,” said Allyson Tabor, nurse epidemiologist for the El Dorado County Public Health Department. “We always advise vaccines and immune globulin for anyone who has been bitten.”

Wild or domestic, outdoor animals can easily be exposed to the rabies virus, said Tabor, such as a bite from a raccoon.

Roughly 10 days ago, Jason and his father, Kevin, were snowmobiling out in a meadow behind the snow dump in the Sierra Tract. The two spotted a cross country skier with a black dog entering the meadow.

“About 10 minutes later that same dog came out through the trees, running straight at us,” Kevin said. “He bit Jason on the leg and held on. I was beating him on the head with my fist – Jason was terrified.”

Once they started up the snowmobile, it took about three-quarters of a mile to shake off the dog, Kevin said – by then they were quite a distance from the dog’s owner.

“I wanted to go back, but I had a hurt kid on the sled,” Kevin said. “We took him to urgent care.”

A dog fitting the same description, with a collar and tags, has been known to chase other snowmobilers in the area, Kevin said. But seeing dog tags from a distance is not sufficient proof the canine is rabies-free.

If the dog is not found, Tabor said a series of 5 vaccines will cost the Rusts roughly $600, and roughly $350 for immune globulin.

“If we don’t give Jason these shots and the animal turns out to be rabid, he has a good chance of contracting rabies, which is fatal,” Tabor said. “I only know of one case in U.S. history where someone survived without shots. We’re hoping someone will come forward and admit responsibility – this is not to be taken lightly. If the owner doesn’t show up to prove the dog is healthy, this child will have to go through very painful, expensive shots.”

Jason, a canine lover himself, has stated concerns about the fate of the dog if found.

“I don’t share Jason’s sentiments,” said his father. “A dog like this does not belong off a leash.”

Those who may have further information on the black Labrador or its owner may call Allyson Tabor at the El Dorado County Public Health Dept. at 573-3027.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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