Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh to review animal control rules

The city will consider drafting tougher animal control policies following a spate of dog attacks in an East Raleigh neighborhood.

Residents off Raleigh Boulevard just northeast of downtown say it’s common for aggressive dogs to chase homeowners and bite smaller pets. People won’t go for walks in this neighborhood now or will only walk with sticks, one homeowner said.

The concerns prompted the City Council to launch a review of Raleigh’s guidelines. The city attorney’s office will study whether city rules should more closely resemble those in Wake County.

“This is one of those issues that is gaining some traction,” said Councilman Randy Stagner, who represents North Raleigh.

“If it’s a public safety issue, and an urgent public safety issue, we’re going to need to address it quickly. At the same time, I don’t want to do this in a kneejerk fashion.”

Wake County’s animal control ordinance contains many of the protections sought by the neighborhood. When a dog attacks a person or domestic pet, for example, Animal Control officers may confiscate the dog and keep it at the owner’s expense for up to 30 days.

The dog is returned when the owner provides a secure enclosure with a visible warning sign.

Inside the city limits, the rules are different. By current city law, dogs must be on leashes when not on the owner’s property, Alford said. Owners can be fined $100 to $150 if their animal is off-leash outside of the owner’s property.

The city does prohibit public nuisance animals, which include dogs repeatedly found off-leash or “vicious” animals that repeatedly attack humans or other animals. However, vicious dogs are allowed to be kept for personal protection as long as they are kept securely confined.

Neighbors say those measures are inadequate and leave them vulnerable. Two residents said they have had to perform their own repairs to their neighbor’s fence so they can feel safe in their backyard.

City Councilman Eugene Weeks said he wants to “see if we can put a little bit of teeth into our ordinance.”

Weeks, a dog lover and owner of a mixed Jack Russell named Sarge, believes the city should adopt similar policies to Wake County’s.

Weeks said the topic will come up at the April 17 council meeting.

“People will be concerned about their animals if they know they have to pay out of their pocket for the bad behavior of their dogs,” he said.

Currently, to be paid back for damage to property or to other animals while the dog is loose, victims must fight the issue for themselves in small claims court.

Raleigh and Wake County should not necessarily have identical policies, said City Manager Russell Allen. The county’s guidelines are geared toward more rural areas and homes on larger pieces of land, he said.

“This does pop up from time to time, usually after there’s been a major incident,” Allen said. “I don’t get (calls) on a regular basis. Clearly it’s a very scary thing for someone to be bitten by a dog.”

Wanda Gregory, whose dog was involved in a recent incident with a neighbor, urged the city not to overreact.

Many pet owners take responsibility when a problem occurs, Gregory said. Problems with dogs often occur after neighbors provoke the animals, she added.

“Keep in mind, animals do get out,” Gregory said. “I fixed my fence within a 24-hour period. I paid my fine. I’ve lived in the area for 15 years.”

Rushing to impose new restrictions isn’t a good approach, Stagner said. But, he added, the recent rash of incidents suggests the need for updates.