Hundreds of dog bites reported across central North Carolina each year: A look at dangerous pet laws

Samantha Kummerer Image
BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
2 Triangle kids died in dog attacks this year: How common are they?
A 10-month old in Johnston County and a 7-year-old in Garner both died earlier this year in dog attacks.

Two separate fatal dog attacks involving children in central North Carolina in 2021 have highlighted the potential danger pets can pose.

In fact, even this week, a 30-year-old woman had to be airlifted to a hospital after being attacked by five dogs outside of Robbins, according to the Sandhills Sentinel.

The newspaper reported that the woman said the large breed dogs dragged her into the woods.

"Don't let your guard down with any dog. They all have teeth. Every dog can bite. That's a part of their communication. So, stay aware," Wake County Animal Services director Jennifer Federico explained.

A 10-month old in Johnston County and a 7-year-old in Garner both died earlier this year in dog attacks.

These incidents represent extreme outcomes, but each year hundreds of dog bites are reported in local counties and cities.

Two hundred and 45 bites were reported in Wake County last year and 1,800 have been reported in the past five years.

The Raleigh Police Department has already reported 57 dog and puppy bites this year.

These bites can range from a puppy roughhousing to the injury of a small animal to the hospitalization of a person.

When dogs, cats, and ferrets bite a person, the animal is required to be quarantined for 10 days to be monitored for rabies.

Often the pet can quarantine at the shelter or at home. Following the quarantine, in Wake County, it's up to the owner to decide if they want their dog back.

If the bite is severe enough, the dog will be deemed dangerous. Federico says that in Wake County, that means severe injuries and death to people or other animals.

When pets are deemed dangerous in Wake County, they are able to go home if the owner wants them. However, dangerous dogs have to be chipped, spayed, and neutered, contained on the property, and tracked by the county.

"The biggest issue is if they get off the property they have to notify us," Federico said. "If anything happens again, they have strict liability on that animal, which puts a lot more responsibility on that owner. So it really is situation to situation what people decide to do."

Federico said she can only remember two incidents of repeat offenders.

In other jurisdictions like Garner, owners have to apply for a dangerous dog permit and the police have to grant it. The dogs involved with the killing of a 7-year-old in Garner earlier this year were not permitted to go back to their owners.

While hundreds of bites are reported each year, very few are severe enough for a dog to be put on the dangerous pet list.

In Durham County, a little over 200 dogs have been deemed dangerous since 2004. Killing a cat or killing and injuring a dog are the top reasons for the label.

A handful of bites in Durham County have led to a dog listed in the county's dangerous database but data shows no fatalities.

Last year, of the 573 bites reported in the county, only 19 of the incidents led to the dog being labeled as dangerous.

Durham resident Shiesha Garrett believes her cat Sprinkles was killed by a dog earlier this year.

She said one minute she saw her two cats lounging outside and the next she noticed one out by the tree lifeless with a chunk taken out of the side of her.

"I was upset," Garrett said. "What if that was a human being? I mean a cat is bad, but what if that was a small child, I had out there, and you know that happened?"

Garrett said she reviewed her outdoor cameras following the incident and noticed two dogs in her backyard moments before she found her cat.

Killing a cat can place a dog on the dangerous list but that's not what happened in Garrett's situation.

The Durham Sheriff's Office claimed that while a deputy did respond to the incident, a report was not written and it was unknown if and which dog attacked the cat.

Garrett said she is more nervous now when she sees stray dogs she gets concerned.

Federico cautions people to always be cautious around all animals.

"I think we have to do a better job in our community of respecting everybody's nature's, people and pets, across the board," Federico said.

She advises everyone to ask before petting a strangers' dogs, don't allow your own dog to run up to kids and other dogs, and never leave children alone with dogs.

"A big thing is knowing dog behavior and being cognizant of the subtleties that dogs give us that we don't always respect," Federico advised.

Federico advised people to be cautious when dogs look away, snarl or growl.