Dog Biting ArmAccording to the SPCA, Americans own 78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats. Most of them are well-behaved, but accidental bites and scratches happen. What happens when the bite is not entirely accidental? Most people have a story about the one dog in the neighborhood that everyone avoids. Often, neighbors are frustrated by the local authority’s apparent lack of concern over the presence of dangerous animals in residential areas.  

The “One Bite” Rule Of North Carolina

In North Carolina, as in many other states, pets are allowed one bite. While not necessarily restricted to bites, the one-bite rule allows pet owners to avoid liability for injuries inflicted on other pets and humans if the pet had not previously shown signs of aggression. Signs of aggression include biting and scratching, of course, but also include behavior like lunging at people, chasing people, snarling, and aggressive barking. After a pet has exhibited any of those behaviors, the pet owner may be successfully sued for damages inflicted by the pet. 

If the pet is secured on its own property, an owner will not be responsible if it attacks a trespasser on the property. The owner should take precautions to warn invitees about the pet and to keep the pet restrained if it poses a danger to anyone on the property with the owner’s permission. 

What happens to a pet that has been determined to be dangerous? Neighbors often wonder why local animal control officers cannot just take an animal away after it has attacked another pet, or especially if it has attacked a human. Each locality has its own ordinances governing pets, but generally, a pet may be removed from its owner only under very limited circumstances. 

After a pet has been determined to be dangerous by injuring another animal or a person, the authorities may order the animal to be restrained or muzzled. In most localities, removal of the pet is the last resort, and will not be done unless restraining and/or muzzling are ineffective or if the pet inflicts serious injuries or kills a person. 

What to do if there is a dangerous pet in your neighborhood? 

The first thing to do, of course, is to try to keep your children and pets away from the dangerous animal. This is not always possible, as your child’s route to school may take him near the pet’s home. Commonly, aggressive animals get loose, and can be in front of you before you have time to react. 

If a neighborhood pet shows aggressive behavior, or bites, scratches, or jumps at you or a family member without provocation, or frequently is found running loose, report the problem to the local animal control agency. If it is safe to do so, the owner of the pet should also be notified. Once the owner of the pet is on notice that the pet has exhibited aggressive behavior or has actually bitten someone, the “one bite” rule has been satisfied, and the owner will be liable for damages if another incident should occur. 

It is not advisable to take action against a neighbor’s pet unless the pet is on your property and action is necessary to prevent the animal from harming you or another person. Injuring a pet, except in cases of emergency on your own property, could result in a lawsuit against you. 

What To Do If You Are Bitten By A Dangerous Animal

Finally, if an animal injures you or a family member, call a dog bite attorney in your area. A local attorney will know the animal control ordinances that govern your city or county and can find out if the animal has already been reported as dangerous.