Gibbs & Fuerst, LLP

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Researchers link increase in animal bites to climate change

Researchers at Stanford University believe the frequency and number of animal bites will likely continue to increase due to changes with the climate. What's referred to as a developmental sprawl has already been associated with increases in exposure to mosquitoes and ticks. Researchers also warn that the available habitat for some animals will likely continue to overlap with areas where humans live and enjoy recreational activities.

Increased encounters with animals also means more opportunities for serious injuries from bites and/or attacks. Animal-related injuries already account for about $1 billion in health costs in the U.S., a figure that may spike if the researchers' predictions hold true. According to university-cited stats, Americans spent $6 billion on care for animal bites over a five year period. This doesn't include additional expenses related to physician and outpatient client fees and lost productivity.

Another pattern researchers found was that bites from poisonous snakes, spiders and bugs were more likely to occur within areas with a lower household income. This could present problems if adults affected are also the primary wage earners. Families may face additional struggles if children end up with life-long disabilities due to serious bites. Many different animal species may bite humans, but the biggest rise has been with injuries from snakes, dogs and cats. It's usually bites on the face that require emergency treatment; otherwise, most animal bites tend to be treated outside of a hospital.

Should an animal bite require medical attention, patients are advised to report the animal's size, behavior and general health. If it's believed there was some type of negligence on the part of an animal's owner or someone responsible for its care and containment, a lawyer may pursue legal action to recover costs related to personal injuries. While there may be some gray areas with certain types of animal bites under the law, dog statutes are very specific by state. California, for example, has exceptions for working military or police dogs.

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