El Paso County health agency takes over reporting of animal bites

2018-01-26 | Government Technology

Jan. 25--View Comments

El Paso County Public Health launched a new website this week for residents to report animal bites.

The agency's move came after a contract dispute with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, which led the health department to largely cut ties with the nonprofit, said Dan Martindale, El Paso County Public Health's director.

The Humane Society previously tracked all reports of animal bites -- a pet biting a human, or a wild animal biting a pet or its owner. The nonprofit also killed animals suspected of being diseased and prepared their bodies for testing by state health officials.

That arrangement ended Dec. 31, however, when the nonprofit asked the health department to increase its annual contract from about $16,000 to $91,000, Martindale said Wednesday during a Board of Health meeting.

"We had a little problem with that," he said.

Gretchen Pressley, a Humane Society spokeswoman, said the increase was "to cover the cost of the services we were performing."

Residents are now asked to report all animal bites through the county's website. Public health officials will then evaluate the risk each bite poses, said Tom Gonzales, the agency's deputy director.

And residents are now asked to contact the health department when they spot a wild animal -- such as a skunk, fox or raccoon -- acting unusual, aggressive or as if it's diseased.

Because bat bites can be too small to see, residents also are asked to immediately report all human or pet interactions with bats.

The health agency awarded a $27,000 annual contract to Alpine Animal Control to handle diseased animals, Martindale said.

El Paso County averages about 2,000 reports a year of animal bites involving humans or their pets. About 150 to 200 of those reports involve potentially diseased animals.

Already this year, one skunk has tested positive in the county. It comes on the heels of an unusually active year for rabies cases in El Paso County -- 28 animals, including 21 skunks, tested positive for the deadly disease. The rest were bats.

EDITORS NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the correct agency that should be contacted when wild animals are spotted acting unusually.