If a pet in New Hanover County bites a person, attacks another animal or approaches someone in a terrorizing way, the victims can file a dangerous dog report and the animal, in a way, goes to court.
Both sides explain what happened in front of a judge and jury comprised of volunteer professional animal handlers. Evidence may be submitted showing injuries, vet bills, and other documents.
Pet owners fiercely defend their dog while neighbors are angry at the cost (and sometimes pain) of damage done by the dog. Tears are shed, and angry glares cast.
The volunteers do not hear the breeds of the dogs or the addresses of the owners. An "innocent" or "guilty" verdict is given after both sides speak.
The pet owner has the right to appeal the decision, but if a pet is found guilty, it will have a new life.
"Dangerous Dog" signs must be placed on the property; the dog must be muzzled outside the home and certain fencing/housing restrictions are put in place.
"Sometimes we see in the owner of the dog that they are in denial of what their dog has the potential to do and did do," said Officer Stephen Watson. "They’ll discount the fact that their beloved pet caused a couple of thousand dollar bill on another animal."
Ignorance of the laws is not an excuse.
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