North Carolina has enacted an entire chapter with 22 statutes dedicated to the control, taxation and ownership liability of dogs. Much of this law evolved from our agricultural and rabies control laws brought over to the colonies.
Read Chapter 10 Dogs subchapter Dogs at Large – Mad Dogs
§67-1. Liability for injury to livestock or fowls.
This statute language was brought to the colonies with one amendment in 1911. It is self explanatory and damages pursued by a livestock or fowl owner would be pursued in the civil courts. There is a possibility you could be requested to report on damages if one decided to pursue this statute or use it to support a damage claim. This is unlikely as the Dangerous Dog laws enacted in 1989 makes it very clear the liability of dog owners whose dogs have killed or injured domestic animals.
§67-2. Permitting bitch at large.
If any person owning or having any bitch shall knowingly permit her to run at large during the erotic stage of copulation he shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Another antique code but still not without implications today.
Female dogs in heat produce a sex pheromone which attracts male dogs in numbers who will fight for the right to breed. Female pheromones can attract male dogs with an excellent sense of smell and a with a good wind they can smell it for up to 3 miles away.
There are alot of dogs to attract in a 3 mile radius which can result in a dog pack. Keep in mind that while dogs are pursuing the female they probably won’t take breaks and head home for a bowl of chow. Hungry, excited dogs in numbers become a safety hazard for people and other animals, not to mention the danger of rabies transmission.
A news report about an aggressive dog pack killing other dogs upsets a community. The pack mentioned doesn't mention if a dog or two was noticed earlier and the pack grew. The sudden development of an aggressive dog pack should have an animal officer patrolling for a bitch in heat.
While we are here it is a good time to learn a little about the dogs heat or estrous cycle.
The Merck Veterinary Manual tells us:
The reproductive cycle in female dogs has 4 phases. Female dogs that have not been spayed (bitches) typically have 2 estrusor “heat” periods per year (about 6 months apart), each lasting about 2 to 3 weeks. In some dogs, the intervals between estrus are much longer. The first heat occurs between 6 and 15 months of age, depending on the size of the dog (later in larger breeds). Females can become pregnant during their first heat or any later heat period.
So, one would have to understand a dog heat cycle to knowingly permit her to run at large.
To enforce this statute would be like grabbing a double edged sword.
Owners of dogs who comply by not allowing their dogs in heat to run at large may house them outside in a fenced yard. Male dogs are attracted by the pheromones released by the female, males arrive and the owner may request you to remove them. Of course, this won’t stop the attraction of other males.
When owners of a female dog in heat keep the female indoors, they typically take the dog out to eliminate. Here we go again; the pheromones of the female are caught in the wind.
Keeping Dogs in Control
Some ordinances specifically define and address dogs in heat and attempt to curtail the attraction of male dogs and dog packs.
City of Burlington Sec. 5-21. - Same—Destruction of bitch in heat. The chief of police, or any policeman, or the animal control personnel, shall have the right to destroy any bitch in heat discovered running at large in the city. ...It shall be unlawful for any owner and/or custodian to inappropriately house or secure a female dog in heat, in such a manner that she will be in contact with another dog...
This section of the Burlington ordinance provides for the destruction of a bitch in heat at large and removes some barriers for the attraction of males. A solid fence would remove the “contact” with another dog, a chain link fence not so much.
Town of Broadway §90.13 FEMALE DOGS IN HEAT TO BE CONFINED. No owner or custodian of any bitch shall allow such bitch to run-at-large while in heat within the town limits. It shall be the duty of the Chief of Police to kill any bitch the owner of which cannot be found within four days after any such dog has been impounded.
An impounded bitch in heat has only one option in Broadway.
County of Iredell ...(2) Female dogs or cats during the estrus period. A female dog or cat during the estrus period must be kept in a secure enclosure or be at all times under restraint. Restraint in this instance does not mean tied to a stationary object. The female “in heat” shall be confined in such a manner as to prevent the animal from coming into unintentional contact with a male of its species. State law...reference: Permitting bitch at large...
The Iredell County ordinance section tries to cover more bases, including a non tethering clause and addresses cats.
North Carolina counties and cities have used the authority of §67-2. Permitting bitch at large in ordinances to elaborate, specify and control animals in heat.
Review your ordinances now, identify and read sections relating to dogs or other animals in heat and nuisances.
As we know, all dogs and any animal with teeth can bite and on occasion, will. As rabies transmission to humans is through dog bites, most official responses to dog bites have technically been medical in nature.
One Bite Rule - One Free Bite
In the past North Carolina, along with most of the country, acted upon the assumption dog owners have no way of knowing that their dog was dangerous or had a vicious nature prior to the first bite or injury and were relieved of a degree of liability. Dogs were not assumed to be vicious or dangerous until they demonstrated a behavior that would be considered as such. This practice allowed “one free bite”, after which the dog owner has knowledge the dog will bite and liability followed after the fact.
Since 1935 the Health Director has had the authority to declare dogs (and cats) vicious (§130A-200. Confinement or leashing of vicious animals.) after an unprovoked bite and may order these dogs to be leashed. After a bite and the required observation period, dog owners are generally allowed to take their dogs home, along with the knowledge that their dog will, and has bitten, and they will bear the responsibility and the liability for their dog’s future actions
This changed in 1990 in North Carolina as the incidence of dogs attacking humans increased along with the severity of dog attacks. Jurisdictions now have the authority, if the jurisdiction opts to do so, to declare a dog potentially dangerous/dangerous without the bite requirement.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs annually. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports an 86% increase in hospitalizations from 1997 to 2017 due to dog bites. Dog attack fatalities in the USA have doubled along with the risk of the first attack resulting in a human fatality.
The CDC reported 279 fatal attacks by dogs during a study from 1974 to 1996, averaging 16.4 people per year. A private organization, DogsBite.org reported 326 dog related fatalities, resulting in 32.6 people dying per year by dogs during a 10 year study from 2005 to 2017.
Over 50% of dogs who bite are on their owner’s property and 77% of these dogs are owned by a family or friend. Most victims are children under 15 and people over 60 years of age.
There is no nationally sponsored recording system for dog related fatalities and many rely on the information provided by DogsBite.
Dog Attack Fatalities in North Carolina
2015: 2 deaths, one dog adopted from Buncombe County animal shelter. North Carolina rates 7 in the number of US fatalities by dogs.
2016: 3 deaths, North Carolina rates 3 in the number of US fatalities by dogs.
2017: North Carolina reported fatalities.
A 65 year old man in Richmond County owned 5 dogs and kept them chained. While walking 2 of the dogs, they attacked and killed the man.
A 59 year old woman in Buncombe County who bred South African Boerbeols was killed by one of her dogs.
In the first 6 months of 2018:
A 7 year old child in Robeson County killed by neighbor’s loose dogs.
A 39 year old female in Perquimans County killed by her dog while cleaning its crate.
An 86 year old woman in Mecklenburg County killed by her daughter’s dogs.
All of the victims died by exsanguination (blood loss).
There is much controversy regarding dog breeds and their propensity to attack. Without accurate animal population numbers, true breed identification and accounting for hundreds of variables, the ability to predict any dog’s potential to bite or kill a human is impossible.
Breed Specific Legislation
In attempts to minimize risk to citizens from dog attacks, many jurisdictions have proposed and enacted Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). This type of legislation identifies specific breeds of dogs and the requirements for their ownership or prohibition.
States with breed specific legislation include:
District of Columbia
Some of this state legislation is undergoing repeals. A breed specific bill for North Carolina was introduced to the General Assembly in 2012 but was not approved.
The municipalities of Edenton and Lumberton have enacted identical breed specific language in their animal ordinances. Edenton - Lumberton §90.43 VICIOUS DOGS. Sec. 4-37. - Restrictions and regulations. (A) Prohibited. No person residing within the corporate limits of the town for a period of seven or more days shall keep, harbor, own or in any way possess any of the following dogs: (1) Any unregistered potentially vicious dog. For the purposes of this section, a POTENTIALLY VICIOUS DOG is defined to mean: (a) The bull terrier breed of dog; (b) The Staffordshire bull terrier breed of dog; (c) The American pit bull terrier breed of dog; (d) The American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog; (e) The Rottweiler breed of dog; (f) The Chow Chow breed of dog; (g) Any dog breed or mixed breed known by a commonly accepted derivative name of the above listed breeds, including without limitation, pit bulls, pit bull dogs, and pit bull terriers....
If you are interested in knowing more about BSL, download the file below regarding this legislation and the countries and states that have enacted it.
In 1994 North Carolina enacted the Dangerous Dog Act, and in effect, removed the One Bite Rule. The definition in this act is somewhat confusing in its contents to many as a Dangerous Dog is one who has also been declared Potentially Dangerous.
As this act is confusing we will take a closer look.
§67-4.1. Definitions and procedures.
(a) As used in this Article, unless the context clearly requires otherwise and except as modified in subsection (b) of this section, the term: (1) "Dangerous dog" means a. A dog that: 1. Without provocation has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person;
North Carolina defines “serious injury” in the statute below, section c (5), ie: broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization. The length of a hospital stay may be questioned. Arriving at an emergency room and treated as an outpatient may or may not be considered “hospitalization”.
“Provocation” might provide some defense for a dog owner but the matter of provocation has not yet been heard in the courts for an over ruling of the Dangerous Dog declaration. As the act mandates an appeals process (see c), provocation may be introduced in the appeal. Knowledge of dog behavior would be crucial in examining actions that would be defined as provoking a dog.
Common legal definitions of serious injury:
Significant or permanent loss of bodily functions
Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
Significant or permanent disfigurement
OR has been designated as a Potentially Dangerous dog.
A Potentially Dangerous Dog is one who;
2. Is determined by the person or Board designated by the county or municipal authority responsible for animal control to be potentially dangerous because the dog has engaged in one or more of the behaviors listed in subdivision (2) of this subsection.
Many ordinances address the authority to declare a Potentially Dangerous Dog. Authorities are animal services directors, health directors, boards or committees and other varied individuals and groups.
b. Any dog owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting, or any dog trained for dog fighting.
A conviction of dog fighting or proof of possession, training or intent to use a dog for dog fighting would be necessary to declare a dog potentially dangerous in this section of the statute.
(2) "Potentially dangerous dog" means a dog that the person or Board designated by the county or municipal authority responsible for animal control determines to have:
This section is commonly pursued and is most commonly incorporated into local ordinances.
a. Inflicted a bite on a person that resulted in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization;
As discussed earlier, many people are hospitalized due to dog bites. A single visit to the emergency room may meet this criteria.
b. Killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner's real property; or
These are dogs who are allowed to or who accidentally roam who injure or kill other pets and domesticated animals. The definition of severe injury applies to animals as well as people. Wild animals are excluded even if they are an owned pet.
c. Approached a person when not on the owner's property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude ofattack.
This specific section eliminates the One Bite Rule as a dog need not bite to be declared a Potentially Dangerous Dog. Note the statute does not specify "real property" in this section. A vehicle, boat and other mobile properties where a dog might be is not considered "real property".
(3) "Owner" means any person or legal entity that has a possessory property right in a dog.
An owner can be an individual, business and other legal entities.
(4) "Owner's real property" means any real property owned or leased by the owner of the dog, but does not include any public right‑of‑way or a common area of a condominium, apartment complex, or townhouse development.
Real property is defined as land, permanent fixtures on the land and what grows on the land. Common areas are used by more than one person, or groups. These include parks, eating areas, laundry rooms, walkways and other areas that are not leased or owned by one who has exclusive right to the property in question. There are many variables to consider regarding the location of a dog if the dog is not on it's owner's property. The dog may be at a home of friends, a veterinary clinic, the list could go on... A public right of way includes areas that are open and used by many persons such as a road, public park, etc.
(5) "Severe injury" means any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization.
(b) The provisions of this Article do not apply to:
(1) A dog being used by a law enforcement officer to carry out the law enforcement officer's official duties;
The dog would be on duty with the officer and would not be exempted if running loose, at a personal event or other situations.
(2) A dog being used in a lawful hunt;
As you are, or will soon be aware, hunting with dogs in North Carolina is a very popular sport and thousands of dogs are used during dog hunting season. Hunting organizations are plentiful and carry political clout. Many animal laws exempt hunting dogs during a lawful hunt. Hunting with dogs is not allowed in any county west of the line formed by Rockingham, Guilford, Randolph, Montgomery, Stanly and Union counties. Local ordinances may also address hunting dogs within its jurisdiction.
North Carolina Laws - Animal Control - Animal Protection - Public Health