Dog Ownership, Legal Liability, Animal Cruelty, and Capnocytophaga Canimorsus

As our human world has become more extensively urbanized and humans have brought their traditional animal companions with them into their homes, city streets, and other institutions, laws have been enacted about the treatment of animals, the ownership of animals and owner responsibility for an animal’s behavior or interaction with human beings.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Animal Aggression

Many of the laws currently on the books deal with curtailing cruelty to animals, especially recent rulings that it is all right to break into a vehicle if a passerby sees an animal or child that is confined to the vehicle. It should be noted that the person is also supposed to call the authorities and remain with the animal or child in a nearby safe area until the authorities arrive.

Laws covering animal aggression deal extensively with dogs that kill livestock, dogs that bite or loose dogs that act aggressively toward people. But a new wrinkle has been in the news recently that could have pet owners and lawmakers wondering about the correct response.

Capnocytophaga Canimorsus, the Kiss of Contagion

Folklore has it that dogs’ mouths are cleaner than humans, but recent news events suggest that this folklore might be the kind of capnocytophaga canimorsus can be dangerous from animalsfolk medicine that could prove deadly. Even scarier is the thought that the human need not have been bitten or scratched to be infected.

A seventy-year-old woman was treated for capnocytophaga canimorsus septicaemia. She was admitted for a partial seizure, that deteriorated into multi-limb involvement. The cause was apparently her Italian greyhound, although she had not been scratched or bitten. She spent two weeks in the hospital but made a full recovery.

The second case is more dramatic. Forty-eight-year-old Greg Manteufel experienced flu-like symptoms, then delirium before being rushed to the hospital. By the time he was diagnosed, his hands and feet were severely affected, forcing amputation. The family plans to keep their pet dog. Greg, who still loves dogs, had been in contact with no less than eight dogs before he became ill.

What is a Pet Owner’s Responsibility in Such a Case?

Currently, there are no legal rulings on the books for capnocytophaga canimorsus. For one thing, it is present in the mouths of approximately 75% of dogs and 57% of cats, all in good health. Most healthy humans are resistant to it, and even if infected, won’t notice any symptoms. People who are at risk are those who have no spleen or have an autoimmune deficiency of one sort or another. It is rare – only 56 cases reported between 1972 and 2004.

Some Sensible Precautions

Keep your pet on a leash when out walking together. Discourage strangers from petting or interacting with your dog. This diminishes the chance that they might catch something from your pet and cuts down on the chance your dog might catch something from them. There are diseases that your dog can catch from humans. While socialization is nice, a little distance could protect your beloved hound from unintentional consequences.