PROPOSED LEGISLATION: DANGEROUS DOG OWNERS REQUIRED TO SHOW PROOF OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Proposed Legislation: Dangerous Dog Owners Required to Show Proof of Financial Responsibility

By H. Edward Knox

In the wake of severe dog attacks throughout the state, the North Carolina State Senate passed a "dangerous dog financial responsibility" bill that would require each county to establish a dangerous dog board. Additionally, the bill requires owners of dogs deemed dangerous to prove financial responsibility. Proof of financial responsibility may include the owner to post a bond or show proof of an insurance policy. A dog could be considered dangerous if it attacks someone without provocation or the dog is trained to fight. If the owner is unable to present proof of financial responsibility to the board, the board could order the dog's removal from the owner and for the animal to be euthanized. This bill is now in the North Carolina House of Representatives for consideration.

Our firm is currently handling a case involving a ten year old boy who was severely injured when he was attacked by a pit bull, pit bull mix and an American bull dog. The boy sustained severe and permanent injuries, including over ninety open wounds all over his body. He spent several days in the hospital and continues to be treated by doctors for his injuries. The boy's family has incurred thousands of dollars in medical bills and the costs for his medical treatment continue to rise. The sad part about this case is that the boy's mother may lose her home because of the mounting bills and time taken off of work to care for the boy, or, in the alternative, the owners of the dogs may lose their home as a result of damages recovered from the lawsuit. In any event, the physical and emotional toll on the boy and his family is indescribable and will remain with them permanently.

The boy's family has filed a lawsuit to recover damages from the owners of the dogs. Unfortunately, the owners may not have had an active homeowner's insurance policy at the time of the attack. So, as the law stands now, owners of dangerous dogs have no duty to provide proof of their financial responsibility in the event the animals harm someone, but the injured victim of a dangerous dog attack has a duty to pay medical bills and remain financially responsible. However, if this proposed bill is passed by the N.C. House, victims of dangerous dog attacks will not suffer from irresponsible dog owners. The owners will be required to show proof that they can pay if someone is injured by their dangerous dogs.

More and more we see individuals maintaining dangerous dogs either for their protection or for the cruel sport of dog fighting. Lincoln County does not have a leash law but the North Carolina General Statutes require that each owner secure any animal that has the potential to harm another. The "one free bite rule" no longer exists. If it is proven that the dog has dangerous propensities, the dog owner may be subject to criminal charges and civil liability for attacks by these animals.

Property owners needs to make sure they protect themselves with adequate insurance and the necessary steps to insure the safety of others. Landlords can be responsible for tenants who house dangerous dogs.

Eddie Knox is the Senior Partner at Knox Law Center. The firm has 3 offices. Our new Denver Office is located at Highway 16 and 73 next to Avason Dentistry. Feel free to call us at 704 827 6667 if our firm can help you in any way. Drop by and say hello.