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September 8, 2011

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Bittersweet dog bite aftermath

LYING on a hospital bed, the seven-year-old boy whose eyelid was bitten off by a stray dog last Saturday is now recovering after surgery that saved his left eye, but his parents still cannot cheer up.

The family is now plagued with medical bills reaching 10,000 yuan (US$1,560). And the boy's parents, both migrant workers from Fujian Province, have to bear it all as there is no way to find reimbursement.

Although the city adopted a new policy in May that requires dog owners to take care of their pets and compensate people who are bitten, stray dogs are not covered.

The boy's mother surnamed Fang complained the residential complex's property management company has refused to cover the medical expense. The family also can't find any government subsidy because it's a stray dog with no owner to take the responsibility.

"So we have to swallow the bitterness all by ourselves," said Fang. "But shouldn't it be the government's responsibility to protect residents from wild animal attacks?"

Fang is calling for legislation on stray dog management and coverage for victims' medical bills.

Meanwhile, doctors are warning that there are more dog bites in the city this year. By August, there were 45,738 cases of animal bites, 40 percent higher than the same period of last year. The rise could be the influx of migrant people, who are likely to raise animals and abandon them, said officials from the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The city reported six rabies cases by August, while there was only one case at this point last year. Officials said 85 percent of dog-attack victims are migrant people, most of whom are bitten in the suburbs. Most offending dogs are unlicensed and abandoned, according to Dr Sun Xiaodong from the center.

Doctors said anyone bitten by a pet must go to a hospital for vaccination, as pets without symptoms of rabies may still carry the virus.

Yin Zhifa of Punan Hospital in Pudong, which has a dog-bite clinic, said it is receiving about 30 patients every day.

"Most of our patients are bitten by their own pets," he said, adding that summer is the big season for dog bites.


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