As an officer whose responsibility is to enforce and educate others to animal law, it is worthwhile to understand how law is formed, written and some basic terminology you will encounter.
Read Chapter 2 Counties, Cities and Towns
The Federal government extends authority to the States to enact law. The State extends authority to the counties and cities to enact and enforce local laws.
A Statute is a State law. An Ordinance is a Local law.
A brief description of how North Carolina statutory law is created:
The state legislators meet in Raleigh to go into legislative session annually. This is referred to as the General Assembly.
During these sessions, new law and proposed amendments (changes) are drafted into bills. Any person can draft a bill.
Bills are introduced by a chamber or house, either the House of Representatives or Senate. The proposals are assigned a bill number and pass through a process of three readings. These readings may include amendments reviewed by committees.
When/if a bill is approved at the third reading it is then sent to the other chamber/house where the process is repeated.
After a bill passes both houses it is ratified (approved) and presented to the Governor.
The Governor has the option to sign, take later action (time limits apply) or veto (reject) the ratified bill.
Overriding a veto requires each house to vote.
After a bill is passed it becomes Session Law and assigned a chapter number.
This process can take quite some time and a bill may pass with no issue, it may die in a committee or may be introduced again at the next session. Similar bills may be introduced repeatedly year after year.
One proposed law; §14‑362.4. Standards of care for large commercial dog breeders, was first introduced in the 2013-14 Session followed by the 2015-16 and 2017-18 Sessions. With each introduction the bill was assigned a new bill number and is yet to become law.
State law is complex and law that may affect an animal officer may not be obvious. Researching bills is important in uncovering law that affects animals and/or the animal officer. NC Laws for Animal Control performs this research and compiles these laws into the manual you are using now.
*One such example is found in Chapter 3, Civil - Criminal Procedures,§50B‑3. Domestic violence; Relief. Few, if any animal officers would be aware that animals are included in a domestic violence statute.
Public Law is defined as a statute that affects the population at large or more than 15 counties.
Public Local law affects fewer than 15 counties.
Local ordinances are considered local law. Local ordinances affect a specific jurisdiction and those jurisdictions who formally adopted the ordinance.
North Carolina statutory law is organized into:
The statute is comprised of:
Annotations: Summary of legislation passed which gives meaning to the statute (history).
Example: Chapter 130A: Public Health. Article 6. Communicable Diseases. Part 6. Rabies.
Parts/text body: (a) Vaccination required. - The owner of an animal listed in this subsection over four months of age shall have the animal vaccinated against rabies: (1) Cat. (2) Dog. (3) Ferret. (b) Vaccination. - Only animal rabies vaccine licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture and approved by the Commission shall be used on animals in this State. A rabies vaccine may only be administered by one or more of the following: (1) A licensed veterinarian. (2) A registered veterinary technician under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian. (3) A certified rabies vaccinator.
Annotations: (1935, c. 122, s. 1; 1941, c. 259, s. 2; 1953, c. 876, s. 2; 1973, c. 476, s. 128; 1983, c. 891, s. 2; 2009-327, s. 2.) The initial law was enacted in 1935 and various changes were made in 1941, 1953, 1973, 1983 and 2009.
Ordinance Construction *Have your ordinances handy for this section.
County and city ordinances are local laws.
An ordinance may require a level of conduct more stringent than statutory law never less stringent.
Ordinances are only applicable to the jurisdiction it specifies. A county ordinance would not be applicable to a city unless formally adopted by the city; likewise a city ordinance would not apply to the county without formally being adopted by the county.
Counties and cities may adopt more than one animal ordinance to address various matters such as Dangerous Dogs, Wild and Exotic Animals and other animal related issues.
Local ordinances are adopted through a process involving the city/county legislators (Boards, Councils, etc,), public readings and a vote by the legislative board. This process can become lengthy and controversial at a local level.
Each ordinance differs in construction, content and length.
Most NC animal ordinances have these basic similar components (bulleted) below:
Defines the subject matter and territorial authority of the ordinance.
Authorities and/or Administration
Specific authority and administration may be found in one section or in various articles or sections. May also contain animal committees or boards, health directors, Law enforcement entities or other persons or entities.
This could be a stand alone section or found in definitions describing authorities and responsibilities.
State law supplementation or authority
Most ordinance language states that the ordinance and/or it’s sections or regulations supplement state law or may note this within individual sections. Purpose – Intent Why the ordinance exists and/or what it intends to accomplish or control. Some ordinances do not specify its intent but this information can be found in minutes, reports and other documentation.
Term definitions. May be provided comprehensively or each section may contain specific definitions for that section. Definitions found in any article, statute or ordinance are vital areas to understand. Common associations are not legal definitions. Examples include a definition of "animal" which may be legally defined as a dog only, or "director" defined as the health director only, etc.
Penalties for violation may be provided comprehensively in one section or each section may contain specific penalties for each section(s).
If/when portions of an ordinance are in conflict with state law, that portion is unenforceable and is severed, the remainder is intact.
Example: In 2015, §160A-203.1. and §153A-145.4 found in Chapter 2 Powers - Authorities was enacted limiting the authority of counties and cities to regulate farm animal care. If an ordinance regulated that stalls for horses comply with a specific standard, that regulation would not comply with this new law and would be severed from the ordinance.
Descriptions of violations and/or actions to be taken.
Vaccination or Rabies Control
Generally includes Animal Bites.
Review your ordinances now; identify and read the bulleted items above.
Ordinances may also contain:
Appeals Process for appealing enforcement actions. Records Any records required by the ordinance. Interference Statement prohibiting interference with enforcement actions/officers.
Other Common Regulations: Vicious Animals Dangerous animals Nuisances Number and/or species limitations Pet ownership limitations. Example: Numbers of dogs-cats Livestock Wild or exotic animals. Bird Sanctuary Many municipalities are Bird Sanctuaries. §160A-188. Bird sanctuaries. Chapter 2 Powers - Authorities Stray animals Abandoned Animals Animal Licensing Animal Tax Animal Noise Animal Impoundment May include: Time length Adoption, reclamations, sales, euthanasia, care, etc. Bees Injured animals Spay – Neuter Dangerous Dogs Animal Cruelty-Neglect Animal Fighting-Baiting Security-Herding-Working dogs Fees Dead Animals Wild – Exotic Animals Inspections – Permits Examples: Kennels, breeders, trainers, groomers, retail, resale, boarding, exhibitions, etc.
Each ordinance is constructed according to the needs and desires of its jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions only address errant dogs and cats, some speak to environmental standards, tethering and numerous other animal issues.
North Carolina Laws - Animal Control - Animal Protection - Public Health