ASU staff presents each case. The following information is excluded from the initial panel's presentation: dog owner and victim identification, dog breed, and location of the incident. These are omitted to prevent any bias in the initial panel's determination.
Dogs that are found to be in violation of any of the panel's decisions or ordinance may be confiscated by ASU staff and their owner cited.
An owner who violates the stipulations in a willful or grossly negligent manner may be found by the panel to have forfeited all rights of ownership of the dog. Upon final determination of such violation, the dog may be humanely euthanized by ASU.
ASU receives numerous citizen complaint calls regarding many animal-related situations. The complaints should be handled in order of priority dependent upon public safety concerns and animal cruelty issues. Both areas are a major concern to the unit; however, human safety must take precedence over animal risk in every situation. After-hours calls may be received through the same number or by contacting the 911 center.
North Carolina enacted the dangerous/potentially dangerous dog law in October 1990 to ensure the safety of our citizens. New Hanover County adheres to this law by following these procedures:
Criteria for Investigation of a Dog
- Any dog bite may be investigated and submitted for evaluation, regardless of the dog's location.
- A dog that inflicts severe injury (medical bill equal to or greater than $250 is required) or death to a domestic animal when not on the owner's real property. Note: Fowl are excluded.
- A dog that approached a person when not on the owner's real property in a vicious or terrorizing manner or an apparent attitude of attack.
Steps to an Initial Determination
- An incident occurs according to criteria for determination. ASU staff verifies that a criterion meets these guidelines.
- The victim(s) and any witnesses must complete a New Hanover County Dangerous Dog/Potentially Dangerous Dog Investigation Form. The form must be returned to ASU within five days of the incident. (Postmark by day five is acceptable.)
- The owner of the dog in question is given an opportunity to respond to the complaint by completion of the form. They must also respond within five days of receipt of the document. Note: Failure of the owner to submit paperwork in a timely manner does not prohibit the case from being heard.
- All paperwork is presented to the initial panel, composed of volunteers designated by the Sheriff's Office.
- ASU staff presents each case. The following information is excluded from the initial panel's presentation: dog owner and victim identification, dog breed, and location of the incident. These are omitted to prevent any bias in the initial panel's determination.
- Panel decision letters are hand-delivered to the dog owner and mailed to the victim.
- If the dog owner is dissatisfied with the initial panel's decision, the determination may be appealed in writing within ten working days of receipt of the decision letter. There is a nonrefundable fee to appeal, which must be paid at the time the appeal is submitted.
- The dog must be maintained under the restrictions of the initial panel's decision until the case is heard by the appellate board.
- Appeals to the initial panel's decision are heard before a panel of volunteers designated by the board of health. Meetings are generally held once monthly at the shelter.
- Both parties must be present at the time of the appeal. The appeal is an open forum with witnesses, attorneys, expert witnesses, and any other admissible evidence the dog owner or victim wish to provide.
- If either party fails to appear, the decision will be found in favor of the present party. For example, if the victim appears, and the dog owner is absent, the decision is upheld. If the dog owner appears, and the victim fails to appear, the decision will be reversed.
- Appeals to decisions of the appellate board may be submitted to superior court by written request within ten business days of the appellate rendering.
- These cases are heard by a superior court judge. Their decision is final. There is a fee to file
Violations of Dangerous / Potentially Dangerous Dog Rulings
- Dogs that are found to be in violation of any of the panel's decisions or ordinance may be confiscated by ASU staff and their owner cited.
- Any unaltered dog that is found in violation must be neutered at the owner's expense before being returned to their household.
- An owner who violates the stipulations in a willful or grossly negligent manner may be found by the panel to have forfeited all rights of ownership of the dog. Upon final determination of such violation, the dog may be humanely euthanized by ASU.
- Determinations rendered for dogs in violation may be appealed by the same procedures as initial findings.