Chapter 6 of the Forsyth County Code establishes both criminal and civil penalties for violations of animal ordinances. Pursuant to NC General Statutes certain acts of cruelty to animals may be charged as felonies. Forsyth County's Animal Services Officers are deputy sheriffs and, as such, are commissioned and may use civil, criminal and impoundment authority to address violations of the County Code.
Approximately a dozen cases, usually cruelty to animals, are charged criminally by Animal Services each year. Over the course of a year about 1,400 civil citations are issued and 3,400 animals seized and impounded. Civil citations may be used in cases of first-time offenders, victimless offenses, and oftentimes for the regulation of dangerous dogs. A summary of civil citation issuance is presented below. +
|Civil Citation issuance by Violation +|
|At Large/Leash Law||402|
|Potentially Dangerous Dog Declarations||143|
|Dangerous Dog Declarations||30|
+ Source: Animal Services Advisory Board 2013 Five Year Plan for Animal Servicess
NC General Statute GS 130 A-192 establishes that Animal Services Officers must "Check to see If the owner’s identification can be found on the animal." If the owner is known, they must be notified in writing to have the animal vaccinated and provide certification of such within 3 days. Once 3 days have passed, the statute is silent on what actions Animal Services officers may take when the owner has been identified. It is Animal Services’s practice to either educate owners to comply, assess civil penalties and/or eventually impound animals.
If the owner’s identification is not on the animal and "the Animal Services officer
does not otherwise know who the owner is, the Animal Services officer may
impound the animal" for not less than 72 hours. During impoundment, Animal Services
is to make "reasonable efforts" to locate the owner. If not reclaimed by the owner,
animals may be (a) returned to the owner, (b) adopted to a new owner, or (c) euthanized.
If the pet owner is known, they must provide proof of the current vaccination
within 72 hours, or the animal may be impounded.
Forsyth County Code Article II. Rabies Control, supplements state law by providing
a procedure for the enforcement of state laws relating to rabies control. These
procedures govern the impoundment and sheltering process and include the issues
of civil penalties in addition to the criminal penalties established in state law.
If a dog or cat bites someone, state and local law requires it be quarantined away from people and other animals for 10 days to ensure it is healthy and not carrying the rabies virus. If a rabies vaccination is not current, the animal must be quarantined at the County Animal Shelter or a veterinary hospital. If a dog or cat is possibly exposed to a rabid animal, it must be quarantined for a period of 6 months or destroyed so and tested for rabies.