North Carolina, like many states, follows a “one bite” rule in determining an owner’s liability for injuries inflicted by pets. If a dog has previously bitten or attacked someone, or has been declared by a local animal control agency to be “potentially dangerous,” the owner is on notice that their pet is dangerous, and will be held strictly liable if the pet injures someone.
Strict liability means that the owner does not have to be found negligent in order to be found responsible for injuries or property damage resulting from an attack by his pet.
Animal lovers, animal control agencies, and breeders have argued for years over the “nature vs. nurture” question when it comes to certain dog breeds like Pit Bulls, Rottweillers, and Dobermans. Some argue that certain breeds have historically been bred for aggressiveness, and that the physical characteristics of the breeds make them inherently dangerous. Others argue that any dog can be either docile or aggressive, depending on how they are trained. There seems to be some consensus on the issue – over 800 cities in the United States have enacted breed-specific legislation, and in 100% of those cities, Pit Bulls are among the breeds regulated. Wolf hybrids are also regulated, but fall into a different category, as they are defined as “non-domesticated animals.”
Two jurisdictions in North Carolina have breed-specific regulations. The city of Edenton has declared all butt terrier breeds, Rottweilers, and Chow Chows to be “potentially vicious.” The city of Lumberton has declared all bull terrier breeds to be “potentially vicious. The breeds are not banned completely in those jurisdictions, but must be registered and kept restrained. In all North Carolina jurisdictions, any animal that is being kept specifically for fighting, regardless of the breed, is considered “potentially dangerous.”
The Strict Liability Law
If a person or pet is injured by one of the regulated breeds in those two cities, the owner is subject to the strict liability law, meaning that he will be responsible for damages caused by his pet, without specific evidence of negligence. Strict liability extends to injuries caused by direct attacks by the animal, as well as indirect damages. If a person falls while being chased by a dog, for example, the owner would be responsible for his injuries.
A dog that is not a regulated breed may still be determined to be potentially dangerous, triggering the strict liability law, but there must be some evidence of previous attacks or aggressive behavior.
Contact a Dog Bite Attorney
If you or your pet is attacked by a dog, make sure to report the attack to the local animal control authority. The owner may be required to restrain or muzzle the dog, and will be placed on notice that the dog is potentially dangerous. Call a North Carolina dog bite lawyer if you or your pet has been injured by an aggressive dog. Contact Campbell & Associates Law today for a free consultation at 704-769-2316.