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Animal Services

Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQs

What may local governments do when animals are being abused or cruelly treated?
Answer: 

Relevant Laws

Chapter 14: Criminal law

Article 23: Trespasses to personal property

  • 14-163 Poisoning livestock
  • 14-163.1 Assaulting a law enforcement agency animal or an assistance animal

Article 47: Cruelty to animals

  • 14-360 Cruelty to animals; construction of section
  • 14-361 Instigating or promoting cruelty to animals
  • 14-361.1 Abandonment of animals
  • 14-362 Cock fighting
  • 14-362.1 Animal fights, other than cock fights, and animal baiting
  • 14-363 Conveying animals in a cruel manner
  • 14-363.1 Living baby chicks or other fowl, or rabbits under eight weeks of age; disposing of as pets or novelties forbidden
  • 14-363.2 Confiscation of cruelly treated animals

Article 49: Protection of livestock running at large

  • 14-366 Molesting or injuring livestock
  • 14-368 Placing poisonous shrubs and vegetables in public places
  • 14-401 Putting poisonous foodstuffs, antifreeze, etc., in certain public places, prohibited

Chapter 19A: Protection of animals

Article 1: Civil remedy for the protection of animals

  • 19A-1 Definitions
  • 19A-1.1 Exemptions
  • 19A-2 Purpose
  • 19A-3 Preliminary injunctions
  • 19A-4 Permanent injunctions

Article 4: Animal cruelty investigators

  • 19A-45 Appointment of animal cruelty investigators; term of office; removal; badge; oath; bond.
    • 19A-46 Powers; magistrate’s order; execution of order; petition; notice to owner.
    • 19A-47 Care of seized animals
    • 19A-48 Interference [with animal cruelty investigator] unlawful
    • 19A-49 Educational requirements.

Chapter 153A: Counties

Chapter 160: Cities and towns

What may local governments do to protect the public from rabies?
Answer: 
What may local governments do to prevent owners from letting their animals roam without a leash?
Answer: 

 

Become involved in enforcing the state’s limited restrictions on animals running at-large

There is no statewide leash law in North Carolina, but there are two provisions that limit dogs running at-large. One statute prohibits persons from allowing dogs to run at large, but it only applies during the night. Another prohibits “bitches…during the erotic stage of copulation” to run at-large. A violation of either law is a Class 3 misdemeanor. There is also a law that authorizes the Wildlife Resources Commission to kill and seize dogs in wildlife management areas under certain circumstances.

Statutory authority: G.S. §§ 67.2; 67-12; 67-14.1

Adopt a local leash ordinance

Because the state laws are far from comprehensive, many cities and counties have enacted local leash laws. Without a local leash ordinance, animal control
officers have limited authority to pick up stray animals. They generally must rely on their rabies enforcement authority to pick up those stray cats or dogs that do not have vaccination tags. A few examples of local ordinances follow.

Any dog or cat that is not confined as provided in this article, and not under the actual physical control or restraint of its owner, leaseholder or keeper, shall be presumed to be running at large. Any animal control officer shall impound such animal at the animal shelter. It shall be a violation of this article for any dog or cat running at large off its owner's or keeper's property to bite any person so as to break such person's skin. A first offense shall subject such owner or keeper to a civil penalty of $250.00. A second offense shall subject such owner or keeper to a civil penalty of $500.00. A third offense shall subject such owner or keeper to a civil penalty of $1,000.00. (City of Fayetteville, § 6-77)It shall be unlawful for any owner to permit any animal belonging to him to run at large upon the streets of the city. (City of Winston-Salem, §6-2)

It shall be unlawful for any person owning, keeping, possessing or maintaining a dog in this county to intentionally or negligently allow the dog to run at large.

  1. If an animal control officer receives a first-time at large complaint and the officer does not personally observe the dog at large,the officer shall investigate the complaint. Upon finding probable cause to believe the dog was at large he shall issue a first civil penalty in accordance with section 4-9.
  2. If an animal control officer personally observes a dog at large animal control may seize and impound the animal and shall issue the appropriate civil penalty in accordance with section 4-9.
  3. Nothing in this article shall prevent a private citizen from bringing an action against the owner of an animal, which has caused injury to the private citizen or his property, for damages or any other loss resulting from an animal being at large. (Durham County, § 4-86 to -87).

Cities have specific statutory authority to enact local leash ordinances but counties must rely on their general ordinance making power.

Statutory authority: G.S. §§ 153A-121; 160A-186

Relevant laws

What may local governments do to protect the public from dangerous dogs?
Answer: 

 

Become involved in enforcing the state’s dangerous dog laws

“Dangerous dog” and “potentially dangerous dog” definitions

Under state law, there are three basic categories of “dangerous dogs”: the dog must (1) without provocation have killed or inflicted severe injury on a person; (2) be owned or kept for the purpose of dog fighting or be trained for dog fighting; or (3) be determined by a person or Board designated by the city or county to be “potentially dangerous” because it:

  • inflicted a bite on a person that resulted in broken bones, disfiguring lacerations, or required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization; killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner’s property; or
  • approached a person when not on the owner’s property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack.

There are certain types of dogs that are exempt from the state law, including law enforcement dogs, hunting dogs, and herding/predator control dogs that inflict injury on an animal appropriate to the dog’s training. In addition, the state’s laws do not apply when the dog inflicts injury on a person who (1) was committing a willful trespass or other tort; (2) was committing or attempting to commit a crime; or (3) was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog (or had in the past).

“Potentially dangerous” dog classification process

Local animal control officials are required under this state law to designate either a single person or a Board to be responsible for determining when a dog is “potentially dangerous.” Such boards are often referred to as the “dangerous dog board.” Officials must also identify a Board (which must be different from the first Board) to hear appeals from “potentially dangerous dog” determinations. The statute outlines a process for declaring a dog “potentially dangerous,” which includes written notice to the owner and an appeal process.

Note that the classification and appeals processes are only applicable to dogs that are dangerous because they fall under the definition of “potentially dangerous dog.” The procedural requirements do not apply to dogs that fall into one of the first two components of the definition of dangerous dog (i.e., dog has killed or inflicted severe injury or is trained for fighting).

Dangerous dog restrictions

If a dog is “dangerous” under state law, the owner must comply with a series of restrictions and requirements. He must not leave the dog unattended on his property unless the dog is (1) confined indoors; (2) in a securely enclosed and locked pen; or (3) in another structure designed to restrain the dog. The owner must also not allow the dog to go off his property unless it is (1) muzzled and (2) on a leash or otherwise securely restrained. If the owner transfers ownership or possession of the dog, he must notify the animal control official or dangerous dog board of the name and address of the new owner or possessor. He must also notify the new owner or possessor about the dog’s dangerous behavior and any determination made by the local dangerous dog official or board.

Penalties

The state law identifies several potential penalties and risks for dangerous dog owners. First, it is a Class 3 misdemeanor to violate one of the restrictions or requirements provided in the law. In addition, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor if the dog attacks a person and causes physical injuries requiring medical treatment costing over one hundred dollars ($100). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the law provides that an owner will be strictly liable for any injuries or property damage inflicted by the dog. Strict liability basically means that if a property owner or individual files a civil lawsuit against the dog owner for money damages, the court will not require proof that the dog owner was negligent in caring for or restraining the dog.

Adopt a local ordinance governing dangerous dogs

State law specifically allows local governments to adopt their own programs for the control of dangerous dogs. Local programs may mirror the state law, be more or less restrictive than the state law, or establish a completely different program entirely. Many local ordinances impose additional procedural requirements, restrictions on dogs, and penalties. For example:

  1. An owner of a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog shall take precautions against attacks by such dogs resulting in serious bodily injury to a person. Determination of a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog shall be in accordance with G.S. 67-4.1. A board designated by the city council, or the county commissioners when the county is contracted for animal control services, shall be responsible for determining when a dog is a potentially dangerous dog. This board shall be composed of a practicing veterinarian and two public citizens. The board of health will serve as the appellate board to hear any appeals. Appeals from the final decisions of the appellate board shall be heard in the superior court of the county.
  2. It shall be unlawful for any person to keep any vicious or dangerous domestic animal within the city unless it is confined within a secure building or enclosure, or it is securely muzzled and under restraint by means of a leash, chain or rope and firmly under control at all times. (Brevard, § 14-36)
  3. Circumstances requiring special preventive measures. The department shall have the authority to require the owner or custodian of a dog to comply with specific preventive measures, as described in subsection (b) of this section, after taking into consideration the following factors:
    [includes nature of the particular dog, adequacy of confinement, immediate surrounding area, proximity of a child under the age of seven, bite history, trained for fighting or aggressive attack, attitude of attack incident, and reputation of the dog]
  4. In considering whether to order a special preventive measure, the department is authorized to consider additional factors as aggravating circumstances that might warrant the ordering of special preventive measures. (b) Preventive measures. If the department determines that the circumstances require special preventive measures, then the department shall have the authority to require appropriate, specific preventive measures which might include, but are not limited to, the following:
    1. Necessary repairs to any fence or enclosure.
    2. Measures to ensure that a gate will remain secure.
    3. A fence or secure dog fence or any other similar device that would provide greater assurance for the confinement of the dog, subject to specific approval by the department.
    4. The department shall also have the authority to require the owner to tattoo the dog at the owner's expense, if that is necessary for identification, investigation, or enforcement purposes. (edited version of Cabarrus County, § 10-57; ordinance provides for monetary penalties and seizure of dog)
  5. Any animal declared a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog is required to remain confined at the county animal shelter until such time as the owner constructs or makes available confinement facilities which are adjudged by county animal control officials to be secure and in keeping with all requirements.
  6. Redemption fees and daily boarding fees at a rate established by the board shall continue to accrue each day the animal remains confined at the county animal shelter. All charges and fees are required to be satisfied before the animal can be released to its owner.
  7. Minimum cage requirements for any animal declared as a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog are as follows:
    1. 10 x 10 x 6 feet heavy gauge chain link fence.
    2. Four-inch concrete slab.
    3. Roof suitable to contain the dog.
    4. Double padlock.
    5. "Beware of dog" signs posted on the lot.
  8. Once the animal owner is notified that any animal has been declared to be a dangerous or potentially dangerous dog, the owner will have three (3) weeks to construct the dog lot and have it approved by the county animal control supervisor.
  9. The dog must stay caged in accordance with the county animal control rules until all appeals are exhausted…. (edited version of Rutherford County, § 5-39; ordinance mirrors state law in many other respects)

Utilize the health director’s “vicious animal” authority

In a law pre-dating the state’s dangerous dog laws, the local health director has the authority to “declare an animal to be vicious and a menace to the public health.” This authority only applies when the animal has attacked a person without being provoked. Once the animal is declared vicious, it must be confined to its owner’s property unless it is on a leash and accompanied by a “responsible adult.” If a local government does not have a dangerous dog official or board empowered to declare dogs “potentially dangerous,” it may elect to use this procedure to impose restrictions on some dogs that would otherwise fall outside the scope of the definition of dangerous dog. A violation of this law is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Statutory authority: G.S. §§ 67-4.1 to 4.5; 130A-200; 153A-131; 160A-187

Relevant laws

Chapter 67: Dogs

May a local government ban pit bull ownership?
Answer: 

2004 Local Government Law Bulletin by Jeanette Cox addresses this question in detail.

As of September 2013, Professor Wall is not aware of any local governments in North Carolina that have adopted breed-specific bans in their ordinances. The town of Edenton has an ordinance that requires registration of certain breeds defined as vicious (see section 90.43 below). 

What may local governments do to protect the public from exotic and dangerous animals other than dogs (e.g., lions, tigers)?
Answer: 

1. Become involved in enforcement of applicable state laws

North Carolina does not have a general law regulating the ownership or possession of exotic or dangerous animals. The Wildlife Resources Commission exercises jurisdiction over native North Carolina wildlife, but it does not regulate ownership or possession of non-native animals such as lions, tigers, and elephants. There are, however, a handful of specific provisions scattered throughout state law that affect ownership or possession of certain exotic or dangerous animals. For example, it is unlawful to:

While these specific laws have been adopted over time to respond to particular concerns, the state still lacks a comprehensive legal framework for addressing problems with these types of animals.

2. Enact a local ordinance relating to dangerous animals

Local governments have broad authority to regulate, restrict, or prohibit possession of animals that are dangerous to persons or property. Note that this authority extends only to animals that are dangerous to persons or property; it does not encompass all exotic (or non-native) animals. Several cities and counties have adopted local ordinances, and they vary dramatically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some establish permitting programs, others prohibit ownership and possession entirely and others place restrictions upon ownership and possession. Some provide a general definition of “dangerous” or “exotic” animal and others identify the regulated animals by their scientific names. For examples of local ordinances, visit www.municode.com and review the following ordinances:

  • Buncombe County, § 6-61
  • Catawba County, § 6-201 et seq.
  • Guilford County, §§ 5-9; 5-22
  • Stokes County,
  • City of Charlotte, § 3-73

3. Utilize the health director’s “vicious animal” authority

If all else fails, a county could rely on the health director’s authority to place restrictions on an owner of a “vicious animal” if the animal has attacked a person without being provoked. Once an animal is declared vicious, it must be confined to its owner’s property unless it is on a leash and accompanied by a “responsible adult.” A violation of this law is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Statutory authority: G.S. §§ 130A-200; 153A-131; 160A-187.

Relevant laws

Chapter 153A: Counties

Chapter 160A: Cities and towns

Chapter 130A: Public health

What may local governments do to address animals that are creating a nuisance in the community?
Answer: 

 

North Carolina local governments have broad authority to “define and abate nuisances.” Many rely on this authority to regulate nuisances affecting
sanitation (e.g., pooper-scooper laws, trash can raiding) and noise (barking/howling). For example:

  1. Any person owning, harboring, walking, in possession of or in charge of a dog which defecates on public property, public park property, public right-of-way or any private property without the permission of the private property owner, shall remove all feces immediately after it is deposited by the dog. All feces removed in accordance with this section shall be placed in a suitable bag or other container that closes and disposed of in a lawful manner.
  2. Any person, while harboring, walking, in possession of or in charge of a dog on public property, public park property, public right-of-way or any private property without the permission of the private property owner, shall have in his or her possession a bag or other container that closes, which is suitable for removing feces deposited by the dog.
  3. The provisions of this section shall not apply to blind persons using dogs as guides. (Apex, § 4-1).
  4. It shall be unlawful for any dog owner to keep or have a dog that habitually or repeatedly barks in such a manner or to such an extent that it is a public nuisance. (New Hanover County, § 5-11; see also § 5-4, which includes “any animal which barks, whines or howls in an excessive, continuous or untimely manner” in the definition of “public nuisance”).

The ordinance may outline specific procedural requirements that apply when an animal is found to be creating a nuisance. For example:

  1. Prohibited. It shall be unlawful for an owner or keeper to permit an animal to create a nuisance, or to maintain a nuisance created by an animal. An agricultural operation or any of its appurtenances shall not constitute a nuisance when operated in accordance with the conditions and provisions set forth in G.S. 106-701.
  2. Abatement procedure. Compliance shall be required as follows:
    1. When an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or duly authorized person observes a violation, the owner or keeper will be provided written notification of such violation and be given 48 hours from the time of notification to abate the nuisance.
    2. Upon receipt of a written, detailed and signed complaint being made to the city manager, or the local health director, where the county is contracted to provide animal control services for the city or by any person that any other person is maintaining a nuisance as defined in section 14-1, the city manager, or local health director, shall cause the owner or keeper of the animal in question to be notified that a complaint has been received, and shall cause the situation complained of to be investigated and a report and findings thereon to be reduced to writing.
    3. If the written findings indicate that the complaint is justified, then the city manager, the local health director or a duly authorized person shall cause the owner or keeper of the animal in question to be so notified in writing, and ordered to abate such nuisance within 48 hours by whatever means may be necessary. If the owner or keeper of the animal is unknown and cannot be ascertained, the notice and order, along with a general description of the animal, shall be posted for 48 hours at the animal shelter, city hall and county courthouse. If after 48 hours the owner or keeper of the animal remains unknown, the animal may be impounded or humanely destroyed.
  3. Violations. It shall be unlawful for a person to fail or refuse to abate the nuisance as required by this section. (Brevard, 14-37).

Statutory authority: G.S. §§ 153A-121; 160A-174.

Relevant laws

How may local governments generate revenue to support their animal control programs?
Answer: 

 Cities and counties have the authority to levy an annual license tax on the keeping of domestic animals. For example:

  1. Any person harboring or keeping any dog shall pay annually a license tax on the privilege of keeping such dog in the county.
  2. The yearly license tax shall be one dollar and fifty cents ($1.50) for each dog.
  3. The license tax shall be paid at the same time as the annual property tax with the same penalties for late payment. A dated and numbered receipt shall be issued to the owner at the time of payment. Such receipt shall constitute a license. (Pitt County, § 3-5).

This licensing and taxing authority also affords local governments with an additional mechanism for addressing stray animals within the jurisdiction by authorizing animal control to impound any unlicensed animal. While this mechanism would not be as effective as a local leash law (because licensed animals could not be impounded), it would help those without local interest in requiring leashes.

A recent article in Popular Government proposed a method for establishing a new licensing program by utilizing county rabies records. See Catherine Clark, The Truth About Cats and Dogs: Vaccinations, Licenses, Services and Revenue in Popular
Government (Winter 2002)
.

Statutory authority: G.S. §§ 153A-153; 160A-212

Relevant laws

How can a local government recover costs incurred in sheltering and caring for an animal while a civil or criminal case is pending?
Answer: 

In 2005, the General Assembly enacted G.S. 19A-70, which allows animal shelters to recover costs related to housing and caring for animals that are the subject of certain civil cases and criminal prosecutions. Local governments across the state have been testing out this new cost recovery tool and raising questions along the way. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on this topic.

Does this law apply every time a government seizes an animal?

No. G.S. 19A-70 applies only if an animal shelter takes custody of an animal after:

  • The person is arrested for animal cruelty, abandoning an animal, animal fighting, or certain other cruelty-related crimes (see GS Ch. 14, Art. 47); or
  • The person is the defendant in a civil animal cruelty action (see GS Ch. 19A, Art. 1) brought by (1) a local government, (2) a county-approved animal cruelty investigator, (3) a local government official, or (4) an organization operating a local government shelter under contract.

Who is eligible to recover costs under this law?

An “operator” of an animal shelter is eligible to petition court to recover sheltering costs. The law does not define the term “operator” but a common sense interpretation of the term suggests that it is the person or organization who owns, runs or manages the shelter. Sheltering arrangements vary widely across the state. Some local governments own and operate their own shelters, some contract with other local governments for sheltering services, and others contract with private entities such as animal welfare organizations. When the local government owns and manages its own shelter, the local government would be the shelter operator and would need to file the petition to recover costs. If a private entity owns and manages the shelter, that entity would likely be considered the shelter operator even if it receives funding from a local government to house animals in certain circumstances. If, however, a different, more integrated relationship existed and the local government has a hand in the management of the shelter, it is conceivable that the local government could be considered the shelter operator instead of or in addition to the private organization.

Where and when should the shelter operator file the petition?

The law is unclear. It simply states that the shelter operator “may file a petition with the court.” It does not specify which court should hear the petition and does not impose a deadline for filing the initial petition. Operations are taking a variety of approaches. In civil cruelty cases, the attorney representing the shelter operator may wish to file a motion in the pending case. If the defendant is charged with criminal cruelty, some prosecutors may not want to address this type of petition in the context of a criminal case. In some of these cases, attorneys representing shelter operators are filing separate civil actions.  

What should the petition say?

The petition should explain the situation, describe the animal(s) housed by the shelter, cite to G.S. 19A-70, and request that the judge order the defendant to deposit enough money with the court to cover the reasonable expenses in caring for the animal while the case is pending. The law defines the term “reasonable expenses” to include “the cost of providing food, water, shelter, and care, including medical care, for at least 30 days.” The petition should include an estimate of reasonable expenses, including an itemization of the specific items identified in the definition.

What will happen after the petition is filed?

The law clearly outlines the timeline of events that will follow the filing of a petition. Once the court receives the petition, it must hold a hearing in 10-15 business days (no less than 10 and no more than 15 days). Prior to the hearing, the shelter operator must (1) mail notice of the hearing and a copy of the petition to the defendant and (2) if the defendant is in jail, provide notice of the hearing to the custodian of the jail.

What will happen during the hearing?

The judge will need to review the petition and will likely provide an opportunity for the shelter operator’s attorney and the defendant or the defendant’s attorney to speak on the issue. The judge will evaluate the entire situation, including the facts and circumstances of the case, the need to care for the animal(s) while the case is pending, the cost of providing such care, and the defendant’s ability to pay. The judge may order the defendant to either

  • Deposit enough money with the clerk of superior court to cover the reasonable expenses related to caring for the animal(s) for 30 days or Provide care for the animal (presumably at the defendant’s home).
  • If the judge orders the defendant to deposit money with the clerk, the order must explain the process for extending the order. 3 – January 2009

Who is required to pay the amount ordered by the judge?

The law allows the judge to order the defendant to pay for the care of the animal(s). If the defendant does not own or otherwise have financial responsibility for the animal, it is unlikely that the judge will order another person to make payments pursuant to this law.

How can the shelter operator get the money?

If the judge orders the defendant to pay, the defendant must do so within five business days of the initial hearing. The law provides that the shelter operator may draw enough money from the funds to cover the actual costs incurred in caring for the animal. The clerk of superior court will establish the process for transferring the funds to the shelter operator.

What if the judge orders the defendant to pay but the case lasts longer than 30 days?

If the case lasts longer than 30 days, the law imposes obligations on both the shelter operator and the defendant. The defendant must either:

  • Request a hearing no less than five days before the expiration of the 30-day period or
  • Pay for 30 more days of care within five business days of the expiration of the
    previous 30-day period.

If the defendant fails to take one of these two steps, the animal is automatically forfeited.

While the defendant’s obligation to continue paying every 30 days appears automatic, the law does require the shelter operator to take action to have the order renewed every 30 days. Not later than two business days prior to the expiration of each 30-day period, the shelter operator must file an affidavit with the clerk of superior court explaining that, to the best of the shelter operator’s knowledge, the case has not been resolved. Once this affidavit is filed, the original order will automatically be renewed.

If the judge orders the defendant to pay, can the judge later change the order?

Yes. After the initial 30-day period has ended, the defendant may request a hearing to review the order. The hearing request must be submitted no less than 5 business days before the end of the 30-day period.

What if the defendant refuses to pay?

The law provides that if the defendant fails to comply with the judge’s order to pay
within five days of the initial hearing or within five days of any 30-day period, the animal is automatically forfeited. Once the animal has been forfeited, the shelter is allowed to decide how to dispose of it. If the shelter concludes that the animal is suitable for adoption, the animal may be adopted by any person other than the defendant or a person living in the defendant’s household. If the shelter concludes that the animal is unsuitable for adoption or the animal is not adopted, the shelter may humanely euthanize the animal.

What if the judge does not order the defendant to pay?

The judge is required to consider several factors when evaluating the petition, including the estimated cost of caring for the animals and the defendant’s ability to pay. The judge may decide that the defendant is “unable” to pay for the shelter operator to care for the animal. In such cases, the law allows the judge to order the defendant to provide necessary food, water, shelter and care (including medical care).

Note that the law provides that the animal may be kept at its “existing location” when the judge issues this type of order. In some instances, the animal has already been removed and taken to a shelter. While the law says that the animal should be kept at its “existing location,” the implication is that an animal at a shelter should be returned to the defendant’s custody or home.

If the judge issues this type of order, an animal control or law enforcement official must regularly visit the location to check on the animal and make sure that it is receiving necessary food, water, shelter, and care. The law does not specify a schedule for these visits but does indicate that they need to be regular – which means on a relatively structured schedule. If the official encounters difficulty making the inspections, the official could ask a magistrate to issue an administrative search and inspection warrant pursuant to G.S. 15A-27.2.

What if the defendant does not own the animal seized?

The law assumes that the defendant is the owner of the animal(s) and is financially
responsible for it. It is relatively easy to imagine situations in which the defendant:

  • Has custody of but does not own the animal,
  • Jointly owns the animal (e.g., a married couple), or
  • Does not own or have custody of the animal.
    If the defendant has no ownership interest in the animal, the court will probably not order
    the defendant to pay or provide for the animal’s care nor will an automatic forfeiture be
    triggered under this statute.

What other options are available to help a shelter limit and recover costs?

  • In animal cruelty cases, a civil suit can be filed under G.S. Chapter 19A, Article 1in order to allow a judge to issue an injunction relatively quickly to address (1) ownership interest in the animal and (2) cost recovery. This type of civil remedy may allow a judge to step in and decide the fate of the animal more quickly than waiting for a criminal case to work its way through the judicial system.
  • Before G.S. 19A-70 was enacted, some judges were ordering defendants to pay
    for sheltering and care of animals. It is possible that a judge will still issue such an order outside the context of this new statute.
  • The shelter operator could try to avoid incurring extensive costs by encouraging
    the owner to surrender the animal to the shelter or the county, thus allowing the animal to be euthanized or adopted out. In criminal cases, however, the shelter may not be able to dispose of the animal until the prosecutor is satisfied that she has all of the evidence she needs to proceed with the case.

Statute

§ 19A-70. Care of animal subjected to illegal treatment.

 

(a) In every arrest under any provision of Article 47 of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes or under G.S. 67-4.3 or upon the commencement of an action under Article 1 of this Chapter by a county or municipality, by a county-approved animal cruelty investigator, by other county or municipal official, or by an organization operating a county or municipal shelter under contract, if an animal shelter takes custody of an animal, the operator of the shelter may file a petition with the court requesting that the defendant be ordered to deposit funds in an amount sufficient to secure payment of all the reasonable expenses expected to be incurred by the animal shelter in caring for and providing for the animal pending the disposition of the litigation. For purposes of this section, "reasonable expenses" includes the cost of providing food, water, shelter, and care, including medical care, for at least 30 days.

(b) Upon receipt of a petition, the court shall set a hearing on the petition to determine the need to care for and provide for the animal pending the disposition of the litigation. The hearing shall be conducted no less than 10 and no more than 15 business days after the petition is filed. The operator of the animal shelter shall mail written notice of the hearing and a copy of the petition to the defendant at the address contained in the criminal charges or the complaint or summons by which a civil action was initiated. If the defendant is in a local detention facility at the time the petition is filed, the operator of the animal shelter shall also provide notice to the custodian of the detention facility.

(c) The court shall set the amount of funds necessary for 30 days' care after taking into consideration all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the need to care for and provide for the animal pending the disposition of the litigation, the recommendation of the operator of the animal shelter, the estimated cost of caring for and providing for the animal, and the defendant's ability to pay. If the court determines that the defendant is unable to deposit funds, the court may consider issuing an order under subsection (f) of this section. Any order for funds to be deposited pursuant to this section shall state that if the operator of the animal shelter files an affidavit with the clerk of superior court, at least two business days prior to the expiration of a 30-day period, stating that, to the best of the affiant's knowledge, the case against the defendant has not yet been resolved, the order shall be automatically renewed every 30 days until the case is resolved.

(d) If the court orders that funds be deposited, the amount of funds necessary for 30 days shall be posted with the clerk of superior court. The defendant shall also deposit the same amount with the clerk of superior court every 30 days thereafter until the litigation is resolved, unless the defendant requests a hearing no less than five business days prior to the expiration of a 30-day period. If the defendant fails to deposit the funds within five business days of the initial hearing, or five business days of the expiration of a 30-day period, the animal is forfeited by operation of law. If funds have been deposited in accordance with this section, the operator of the animal shelter may draw from the funds the actual costs incurred in caring for the animal. In the event of forfeiture, the animal shelter may determine whether the animal is suitable for adoption and whether adoption can be arranged for the animal. The animal may not be adopted by the defendant or by any person residing in the defendant's household. If the adopted animal is a dog used for fighting, the animal shelter shall notify any persons adopting the dog of the liability provisions for owners of dangerous dogs under Article 1A of Chapter 67 of the General Statutes. If no adoption can be arranged after the forfeiture, or the animal is unsuitable for adoption, the shelter shall humanely euthanize the animal.

(e) The deposit of funds shall not prevent the animal shelter from disposing of the animal prior to the expiration of the 30-day period covered by the deposit if the court makes a final determination of the charges or claims against the defendant. Upon determination, the defendant is entitled to a refund for any portion of the deposit not incurred as expenses by the animal shelter. A person who is acquitted of all criminal charges or not found to have committed animal cruelty in a civil action under Article 1 of this Chapter is entitled to a refund of the deposit remaining after any draws from the deposit in accordance with subsection (d) of this section.

(f) Pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, the court may order a defendant to provide necessary food, water, shelter, and care, including any necessary medical care, for any animal that is the basis of the charges or claims against the defendant without the removal of the animal from the existing location and until the charges or claims against the defendant are adjudicated. If the court issues such an order, the court shall provide for an animal control officer or other law enforcement officer to make regular visits to the location to ensure that the animal is receiving necessary food, water, shelter, and care, including any necessary medical care, and to impound the animal if it is not receiving those necessities.