NC Dog Attack Laws

I am curious if anyone has experience with North Carolina’s dog bite/attack laws. I’m not going to use real names in case it might affect any judgements in this case.

My aunt and uncle (Cindy and Steve) are staying with my cousin (Dave, their nephew) in North Carolina with their three dogs. This morning, the three dogs were outside in my cousin’s fenced in back yard when a pit bull owned by a neighbor two doors down jumped over the fence and attacked and killed my aunt’s miniature pincher (Princess). I am wondering for what sort of liability, if any, could the owner of the pit bull be held. My other uncle (Jim, the father of Dave, but not the owner of the killed dog) says that on a previous visit to Dave’s house the same pit bull jumped the fence and looked like it was going to attack his dog, but he chased it away before anything happened.

According to the pit bull would be categorized as a “potentially dangerous dog” for killing a domestic animal while not on it’s owner’s property. The law also says that an owner shall be held liable for damages inflicted by a “dangerous dog”. Apparently, the pit bull isn’t considered a “dangerous dog” unless it either kills or inflicts severe injury on a person or is determined to be dangerous by animal control for having committed “potentially dangerous” actions multiple times.

I would just like the opinions of anyone that has knowledge in this area about whether or not my aunt and uncle have a case against the owner of the pit bull. I understand that you are not my (their) lawyer and that I shouldn’t rely on any advice, but I would like to just get a feel for if it’s something they should try to pursue or not. Thanks in advance!

Also, Princess was a good dog and we will miss her very much :frowning:


Here’s a link to North Carolina’s consolidated dog laws. In particular, note

Here’s a link to North Carolina’s consolidated dog laws. In particular, note § 67-4.4:

(“Strictly liable”, BTW, means that the owner doesn’t have to have “done anything” with respect to the dog to be liable for damages — mere ownership is enough.) Whether you could get more damages than the cost of a replacement pet, however, isn’t clear to me.

Also, there may be local ordinances which strengthen or supercede the state laws. Your aunt & uncle should really consult a lawyer, which I am not.

From the link supplied by MikeS:

It’s a little confusing, because one of the definitions of a “dangerous dog” is a dog that has been determined to be “potentially dangerous”, yet a “potentially dangerous dog” is defined differently. It could be that a “potentially dangerous dog” is a “dangerous dog” and the law is just redundant. Or it could be that the designations differ in a way that isn’t clear to me.

At any rate, I would advise calling Animal Control and reporting both incidents involving the dog, since both of them look as if they may satisfy the standards for designating a “potentially dangerous dog”.

A very similar situation came up in a lawyer call-in radio show. The lawyer advised the owner of the small dog that was killed to take the owners of the large dogs to small claims court and sue them for everything they could think of - replacement cost, any costs that were incurred training the killed dog, etc. If dogs go onto somebody’s property and destroy something, they are responsible. Being known to be dangerous in the past doesn’t matter, although it may make the owners of big dogs more liable if they knew their dogs were capable of this.

I have heard/read extensively from both sides of the pit bull bans, and come down in favor of the bans. There are lots of folks who believe that there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners. I don’t think that’s true. Dogs are different breeds because they have been selected to do different things. Fighting dogs have been carefully selected to attack other animals. It’s in their breed standards. To borrow a phrase I read a lot on the internet - pit bull type dogs attacking and killing other dogs is a feature of the breed, not a bug.

Imagine somebody telling you that his Labrador Retriever won’t run after thrown balls because he was never exposed to people throwing balls as a puppy and had been trained not to retrieve. You’d probably laugh at that person. Yet a ton of people completely believe that a dog that has had the same type of selection to fight another animal as the Labrador retriever has had to retrieve can be trained or socialized not to do it.

I’m not sure you want to take the position that pit bulls can’t be trained not to attack. There surely are examples of well-trained pit bulls that have never attacked anyone. These may even be the majority of them. I don’t know.

But I don’t find it at all hard to believe that pit bulls could be innately more aggressive and harder to make harmless.

The real problem with pit bull bans is defining what is a pit bull.