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Jeannette Frederick says she never saw the dog before it knocked her to the ground.

The 80-year-old East Ridge resident said she had gone outside about 4 a.m. last Saturday to let the small poodle she was dog-sitting go to the bathroom when the larger dog, a medium- build mixed breed, came at her from behind.

"Once it knocked me down, I didn't get a good look at it, I didn't want to see what was going to kill me," she said in an interview Wednesday. "My husband is sleeping in the back of the house and he didn't hear me hollering. It was pitch-black dark, so I lay there with the dog on top of me. He was right in my face trying to get to the other dog."

Her attacker eventually left, but not before biting Frederick's hands.

"I've got bruises all over my rear end and on one arm from my elbow to the wrist, and on my back," she said.

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But what has Frederick the most upset is that no one else seems particularly bothered by the attack. The neighbors who own the dog, which apparently was chained outside and slipped out of its collar, have not apologized, she said, and the police department said it is not their responsibility.

The police or someone from the animal control unit — she's not sure which — told her the neighbors said their dog had had its rabies shots, but she wants more proof.

"I want to know where they got them," Frederick said. "I want to see proof that the dog has been taken care of."

She went to her regular doctor for a tetanus shot, but doesn't know whether she now needs rabies shots as well.

Medical professionals say it's unlikely Frederick will get rabies. But a dog bite certainly can cause infection. And at least one insurance company says the number of dog bites has increased recently.

Rabies is extremely deadly, but only one recorded dog bite case in Tennessee in 2016 was traced to a dog with rabies, said Regena Young, outreach and injury prevention coordinator for Erlanger hospital's trauma services department.

"The main reason dog bites are of concern is the bacteria in the dog's mouth that can cause infections," said Young, a nurse. About one in five dog bites becomes infected, she said.

Erlanger treated 287 people for dog bites last year at its four local emergency medical facilities, including 114 children. Of those, five adults and six children were hurt badly enough to be hospitalized, Young said. That was an increase of 15 percent from the 243 cases in 2015.

If a Hamilton County bite victim complains to the health department, the McKamey Animal Center investigates the incident and the dog must be quarantined for 10 days at home or at the animal shelter. If a victim goes to court, the dog could be deemed a "potentially dangerous animal." Any dog getting that label must be kept inside a fence or house for 18 months, according to Tiffany Newcomb, director of animal services at McKamey.

Getting a tetanus booster shot after a dog bite is recommended, according to Gene Marie Record, a nurse practitioner with CHI Memorial's Family Practice Associates in Ringgold. The booster shot "is required every 10 years to stay up to speed," she said, and can be given by most primary care doctors.

Nationally, State Farm Insurance Co. reported dog bite claims rose by 15 percent in 2016, with the insurer paying out $121 million for 3,660 cases. Tennessee ranked 21st among the states, with payments of $1.7 million for 65 claims, while Georgia was ninth, with $3.4 million in payments for 125 claims. Homeowners can add personal liability coverage to cover injuries caused by their dog biting someone, State Farm said in a statement.

Pet owners are required by law to get rabies shots for all dogs and cats. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department is offering discounted rabies shots the week of April 21-29 at 60 locations for a fee of $12. Check the department's website at health.hamiltontn.org for dates and locations.

The health department checked out 790 cases of animals biting humans in 2016, officials said, but none tested positive for rabies. Statewide, 49 animals tested positive, up from 33 in 2015.

More than half the cases involved skunks, followed by bats, according to Erlanger's Young.

McKamey Executive Director Jamie McAloon said warm weather brings more complaints of dog bites.

"It almost triples starting around May 1, as soon as nice weather starts and people are out walking and running and biking," McAloon said.

For her part, Frederick said she has nothing against the dog that attacked her.

"I can't blame the dog," she said, "I blame the people who put it outside and chained it. I don't blame it for wanting to pull loose.

"But I don't want to ever see that dog again."

Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at 423-757-6673, sjohnson@timesfreepress.com, on Twitter @stevejohnsonTFP, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/noogahealth.

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