North Carolina Dog Law

Liability Statute

North Carolina does not have a Dog Bite Statute. However, lack of a specific dog bite strict liability statute does not mean that liability may not attach under other theories of liability, such as negligence, nuisance, or willful misconduct of various kinds.

Common Law Liability

To establish the liability of the owner or keeper of a dog under North Carolina’s common law, the plaintiff must present evidence that the dog had previously demonstrated its dangerous propensities, and that the dog’s owner or keeper at the time of the injury had knowledge of the those propensities. There is no requirement that the plaintiff prove that the dog bit someone in the past.

Dangerous Dog Statute

The Meaning of a "Dangerous Dog"

A “dangerous dog” is a dog that:

  • without provocation, has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person. A severe injury means any physical injury that results in broken bones, disfiguring lacerations, or that requires cosmetic surgery or hospitalization.
  • a dog owned primarily for dog fighting or any dog trained for dog fighting.
  • a dog that has been previously determined to be “potentially dangerous” and continues the behavior and has engaged in one or more behaviors associated with a potentially dangerous dog.

The Meaning of a “Potentially Dangerous Dog”

A “potentially dangerous dog” is:

  • a dog that inflicts a bite on a person that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or requires cosmetic surgery or hospitalization; or
  • a dog that has killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner's real property; or
  • a dog that has approached a person when not on the owner's property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack.
  • Under the statute, a dog is not “potentially dangerous” if it inflicted injury on a person who was committing a willful trespass or other tort, was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog, had tormented, abused, or assaulted the dog, or was committing or attempting to commit a crime.

Legal Responsibilities of Dangerous Dog Owners

  • Owners must confine dangerous dogs indoors, or, if outdoors, in a securely enclosed and locked pen, or in another structure designed to restrain the dog.
  • Dangerous dogs are not permitted to go beyond the owner's property line, unless the dog is leashed, securely restrained, and muzzled.

Liability of Dangerous Dog Owners

  • The owner of a dangerous dog is strictly liable in civil damages for any injuries or property damage the dog inflicts upon a person, his property, or another animal.
  • The owner of a dangerous dog that attacks a person and causes physical injuries requiring medical treatment in excess of $100 commits a crime and faces a penalty within the judge’s discretion.

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