Dangerous Dog Appeals Board to meet for first time in years

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 1, 2019

SALISBURY — For the first time in more than three years, Rowan County’s Dangerous Dog Appeals Board will meet Monday to determine the fate of an animal declared dangerous by the Animal Services Department.

Dogs declared dangerous or potentially dangerous must be confined by their owners according to a rigorous set of standards: heavy chain-link fencing around a concrete slab with a roof, double padlock and a “beware of dog” sign posted on the lot.

They are not allowed to be taken from their owners’ property without a muzzle and without the Animal Services Department being notified.

According to local ordinances, dangerous dog designations are given to dogs that have without provocation killed or inflicted serious injury on a person or that have been owned or trained for the purpose of dog fighting.

Potentially dangerous dogs have inflicted severe injury on a person, have killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal when not on the owner’s or keeper’s property, or have approached a person when not on the owner’s or keeper’s property in a vicious or terrorizing manner.

The distinctions are given through consultation with the county’s animal enforcement team, with officers and supervisors preparing a case that is presented to Animal Services Director Bob Pendergrass.

Pendergrass has to sign off on the distinction but — as in Monday’s case — owners are always given the opportunity to appeal.

“Generally I agree with the decision the staff has made,” Pendergrass said. “These guys have been doing this a long time. They know the work and have generally dealt with and interacted with the animal involved.”

The director said he is aware of three prior appeals, though none occurred during his three years with the county.

Pendergrass was unable to disclose the specifics about the case being considered Monday, but he said the board will decide whether or not the distinction and strict confinement standards remain in place.

Members of the board are not Animal Services employees, he said. Some are animal care professionals.

“We trust their judgment on animal behavior and circumstance,” Pendergrass said.

Though the ordinance says that a dog can be declared dangerous for killing someone, Pendergrass said it would be unlikely a person would be allowed to keep a pet in that instance.

Most cases involve people that are bitten. The dangerous or potentially dangerous designation is meant to give owners an option if they want to keep the animal.

Fortunately, Pendergrass said that not many animals have required the penalty over the years. Most bites fail to meet the dangerous or potentially dangerous distinctions, occurring instead when owners try to separate two fighting animals, he said.

The designation is different, he said.

“These are cases where we’ve reached a level that we think if we do not take drastic measures, someone will be injured.”

The situations are difficult for the owner, said Pendergrass, but just as difficult for those that have been attacked.

“Our first job and the job that ever caused our department to be created was public protection and public health,” he said.

The Dangerous Dog Appeals Board meeting will be at 2:30 p.m. Monday in the Rowan County Animal Shelter staff training room, 1465 Julian Road.