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Dog bites boy riding Boogie Board

By MARY SCHLEY

Published: September 27, 2013

NINE-YEAR-OLD GARRETT Heger was Boogie Boarding with his dad and some friends at Carmel Beach Aug. 31 when, as he rode a wave in and had almost made it to the sand, a little white dog ran up and bit him in the face, his father recounted to The Pine Cone Thursday. The bite left puncture wounds in his son’s forehead and cheek, according to Carmel resident Stevie Heger, but before anyone could grab the dog to at least see if its rabies vaccinations were current, the animal and its owner, whom Heger described as a slim, older, white-haired woman, disappeared into the Labor Day Weekend crowds.

While Garrett Heger’s friends, who had seen him get bitten, said the woman “ran away” afterward, it’s unknown whether she deliberately left or simply wasn’t paying attention.

Alarmed, Heger sent the boys to comb the beach in search of the woman, to no avail, while he found a police officer on the street and reported the bite. Monterey Fire sent medics to treat the boy, who suffered broken skin but was in no other danger, so after they cleaned up his son, Heger signed a medical release stating a trip to the hospital wasn’t needed.

“At that point, rabies was my biggest concern,” Heger said, noting that Sept. 28 is World Rabies Day. Untreated, the virus is fatal, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, 55,000 people across the globe are killed by it annually, although rabies death are virtually unknown in the United States Americans spend some $300 million on the virus and related costs every year.

Carmel animal control officer Cindi Mitchell said police also searched for the woman and her dog that day, also without success, so it’s unknown whether the animal was vaccinated against rabies. But Mitchell said she advised Heger Monterey County has no recorded incidents of rabid domestic dogs. “I let him know most dogs are vaccinated and we haven’t had any cases of rabies in domestic dogs in our area,” she said.

Heger said hewas impressed by Mitchell’s knowledge and that she waylaid his fears. elected not to get rabies shots for his son, and he has not developed any symptoms.

In hopes of finding the woman himself, just to be certain, Heger went to the beach again in the days after the bite and saw her twice. He photographed a person he believed to be the owner, and confirmed it with the boys who had seen her. He then turned the photo over to Carmel Police officer Joe Boucher, who took the initial report, but Heger said he doesn’t believe the department is interested in trying to find the woman.

And if his son had, in fact, caught rabies, he said, “He’d be dead by now.”

While Carmel Beach is a favorite of dog owners because their pets are allowed to run off leash, play in the surf, socialize with other animals and people, and otherwise enjoy themselves, beach goers have also criticized people’s lack of responsibility in exercising control over their animals, resulting in injuries to people and other dogs. The debate whether to require dogs to be leashed — rather than simply under “voice control” — arises with regularity.

“A lot of the time, people aren’t watching their dogs the whole time,” Mitchell said. “You need to know what it’s doing.”

Heger noted his son is fine, albeit a bit more wary of dogs as a result of the bite, and he has since returned to the beach.

“It’s not like he was mauled,” he said. “But my big things are owner responsibility, and a little more responsiveness from the police department. I don’t think it’s asking too much.”

Heger said he considered raising the issue before the city council at its Sept. 10 meeting but decided the agenda was already too packed with other issues to add another.