North Carolina Pit Bull Dog Owner Liability

North Carolina pit bull dog owners are responsible for knowing the aggressive tendencies of this breed of dog. Dog adoption agencies and shelters do not always share this information with potential dog owners. This article offers a cautionary example of deadly results that may result from adopting a shelter dog.

Pit Bull Dog Attacks Neighbor's Child

On July 7, 2015 a six year old boy was playing in his family's yard in Henderson County, NC. The boy noticed his neighbor's dog next door. His neighbor had allowed him to pet the dog a few days earlier. The boy decided to enter the dog's fence and play with the dog again. The dog, a pit bull, attacked and bit him around the head and neck area. Joshua Strother, age 6, died as a result of the attack. The pit bull dog was so aggressive when police arrived that they were unable to enter the fence without the dog trying to bite them. They had to shoot the pit bull dog dead on site.

The dog's owner, a disabled veteran, had owned the pit bull dog only a month. He had adopted the pit bull dog from the Buncombe County Adoption Center, which is operated by the Asheville Humane Society. The owner claimed he had no knowledge of the pit bull dog's tendency to be aggressive.

The Asheville Humane Society quickly moved to deflect blame, claiming no knowledge of the pit bull dog's aggressive tendencies. They claimed that the pit bull dog had come in as a stray with history. They also claimed that their dogs are evaluated for aggression before allowing them to be adopted.

Pit Bull Dog Breed Characteristics

Pit bull dogs are a known aggressive and dangerous breed. They were bred for the specific purpose of baiting bulls and bears. The pit bull dog would seize the head or neck of the much larger animal, usually until the larger animal died. The dogs were prized for their aggression and brute strength. Owners especially valued the pit bull dogs tendency to grab their prey and refuse to release their jaws. In short, the pit bull dogs were bred to kill other animals. Later, when baiting was outlawed, the pit bull dog's traits made it ideal for the dog fighting. Today, the most common breed found in the illegal dog fighting rackets is the pit bull dog. This breed is prized for its ability and willingness to kill another dog.

Although pit bull dogs account for only 6% of the dogs in the U.S., they account for 62% of all dog attack fatalities. The pit bull dog can be so dangerous that many countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland, have banned owning this breed of dog. Additionally, in the U.S., some insurance companies refuse to write insurance policies owners of pit bull type dogs.

Pit Bull Dog Owner Liability

In North Carolina, a dog owner is responsible for knowing the tendencies and traits of his animal. The dog owner can be liable if the dog acts in accordance with its breed's traits. Therefore, even if a pit bull dog has not shown aggression before, the owner is on notice of the type of damage this breed of dog is capable of inflicting. The owner may be liable even if the dog has never attacked or bitten anyone before. (Holcomb v. Colonial Associates, 570 S.E.2d 248 (2002)

Well-intentioned Shelter Staff

In spite of the danger posed by the pit bull dog, the Asheville Humane Society frequently encourages the adoption of these dogs. The Asheville Humane Society has celebrated National Pit Bull Dog Day, Pittie Picnics, and Pittie Parties in 2015. At these events, potential owners are encouraged to take these dogs into their homes and communities. Nowhere in the advertising does the Asheville Humane Society list any of the negatives of the pit bull dog breed, but instead decry the aggressive stereotype of the pit bull dog.

Similarly, Brother Wolf Adoption Center in Asheville encourages the adoption of pit bull dogs. Recently, given the questions that have arisen in Joshua Strother's death, the Buncombe County Commissioners have asked the Asheville Humane Society to place a temporary hold on adopting pit bull dogs. Brother Wolf responded by condemning this action, calling the action sad. Meanwhile, the Brother Wolf Center continues to adopt pit bull dogs during this moratorium. It appears that Brother Wolf is more concerned with dog welfare than human safety.

Persons who wish to adopt a shelter animal need to be cautious because of the attitudes of shelter staff. In adopting a dog, a person should not rely solely upon the description of the dog given by the shelter. Shelters have an agenda to have 100% of their dogs adopted. Their marketing and funding can depend on their re-homing rates. Additionally, some shelter workers truly believe that aggressive dogs and pit bull dogs are not potentially dangerous, but simply frustrated, misunderstood, or will change their behavior once they have a home. They also can be reluctant to euthanize any animal, regardless of its behavior. Therefore, shelters may be a bit less than forthcoming in providing information regarding the dog's true temperament. Such compassion, although admirable, can lead to tragic consequences. For a more in depth discussion of myths about pit bull dogs refer to Pit Bull Dog Myths.

Persons looking for a dog should be knowledgeable of the characteristics of various breeds before selecting a dog. For the reasons stated above, pit bull dogs should be avoided. If an owner chooses a pit bull dog, they may face automatic liability in the event the dog attacks or bites another person or animal. This is true even if the dog has not shown prior aggression. As stated before, an owner is charged with knowing the characteristics of his dog's breed. Even more important than avoiding losing money in a potential lawsuit, the dog owner should be concerned about the lives of the people around him. Unfortunately, pit bull dogs have proven time and time again that the public is not safe around this breed.
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Each case is different. Many factors such as the severity of injuries, ability to prove liability, amount of liability insurance coverage, jurisdiction, medical expenses, and many other factors can determine the outcome of a particular case. You should not use these examples as a representation of what recovery you will obtain in your particular case, as every case is unique. Ruth Smith does not guarantee that the outcome of your case will be similar to the results listed above.