Dear Carolyn,

So back in September, I was at my sister’s cul-de-sac bonfire with my dog. Well, a new kid to the cul-de-sac was petting my dog, and before I knew it, she hugged my dog around the neck and covered his face with her long hair. Before I could stop anything, my dog nipped the girl in the face. He did break the skin, and no stitches were needed; the little girl didn’t even bleed. The first thing out of the kid’s mother’s mouth was to my sister that her homeowners would be paying for this! As far as I know they reported the bite, but I never heard from animal control.

I have read North Carolina has one bite law. This is my dog’s first bite and he is not an aggressive breed. Am I responsible for the kids medical bills? I am scared if I start paying something, the mother is going to start adding on more and more. I’m scared to even communicate with her because I am worried the mother will try and use anything I say against me. Every time I’ve been told about the medical bills I get a different story or price. I just feel like there is something fishy going on and am scared to just pay the mother.



Carolyn Answers,

The law regarding dogs is intricate. I’ll go over this law for the readers, but don’t get worried, I don’t think you have a dangerous or vicious dog from the facts you state. You state the dog is not an aggressive breed, but you don’t state the breed. I would not discuss this with your neighbor further. If the neighbor asks, give her the name of your homeowner’s insurance carrier. Tell her to discuss it with the insurance carrier. 

Here’s a summary of dog bite law:

The owner of a dangerous dog shall be strictly liable in civil damages for any injuries or property damage the dog inflicts upon a person, his property or another animal. NCGS 67-4.4. Strict liability is a legal concept whereby the owner of a dog can be held liable without a finding of fault of the owner of the dog.

In order to recover for injuries inflicted by a dog, one must show that (1) the animal was dangerous or determined as possessing a vicious propensity; and (2) that the owner or keeper knew or should have known of the animal’s vicious propensity, character and habits. Our statute defines a dangerous dog as one that has killed without provocation or inflicted severe injury on a person; or determined as such by the person or board designated by the county or municipal authority responsible for animal control to be potentially dangerous because the dog has engaged in one or more of the following behaviors: (a) Inflicted a bite on a person that resulted in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization; or (b) Killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner’s real property; or  (c) Approached a person when not on the owner’s property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack. Additionally, a dog owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting is a dangerous dog. Owner does not extend to landlords whose tenants have dogs, unless the landlord has knowledge of the vicious tendencies.



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