By Connie Leinbach

Under a proposed amendment to the Ocracoke Development Ordinance, dogs soon would no longer be able to “run at large” on the island.

In the wake of an incident on July 12 in which a pit bull, after it had escaped its house, bit two dogs and an island woman, County Manager Kris Noble on Tuesday night at the Ocracoke Civic & Business Association meeting shared drafts of two amendments to the county’s animal control ordinance.

The second of the amendments would prohibit “dogs running at large within Ocracoke Island,” she said.

In discussing the incident, Joe Smith, captain of the Hyde County Sheriff on Ocracoke, reported that after the dog escaped its house, the owner was actively looking for it.

But in the meantime, it had bitten two other dogs, one of which was seriously injured and was taken to Roanoke Island Animal Clinic.

Dr. Mary Burkart on Wednesday said the young poodle owned by a visitor had its jaw repaired and went home to Connecticut.

Smith said a deputy had arrived on the scene that day and tried to grab the attacking dog which then tried to bite him. The deputy fired a shot, but the shot grazed the dog’s leg, and the dog ran off.

Then it attacked another young dog being walked by an island woman, both of whom got bitten in the scuffle.

The woman was bitten on one of her fingers and the dog in the throat area.

Since there was no record of the at-large dog having had a rabies vaccination, the woman explored getting rabies shots, but she said on Wednesday that she had heard from the state on Monday that the attacking dog did not have rabies and she did not have to undergo shots.

Smith said Tuesday night that he had told the owner that he could either pay fines or have animal control take the dog and put him down to be tested for rabies. The owner chose to have the animal put down.

“In all three of those incidents a leash law would not have prevented a single one of those attacks,” he said, since those dogs escaped from houses or back yards.

As for animal control and since there are infrequent calls, Noble said Hyde County works with Tyrrell County’s animal control officer Cecil Lilley.

The first of Noble’s draft amendments (Sec. 4-17) would require owners to be responsible for the care and behavior of their animals.

The second, Sec. 4-18, would prohibit dogs from running at large within the Ocracoke village boundaries as depicted in the Ocracoke Development Ordinance.

She said that after the county attorney reviews the drafts, two public hearings for comment would be held before the county commissioners could adopt them.

Ocracoke’s commissioner Randal Mathews said he’s brought this up at other commissioner meetings, has been talking to a lot of people and is glad to see progress on this issue.

He thanked Smith for his clarifications because he thinks there’s been some misinformation.

He also said that since last April, he has dealt with three such incidents.

“I don’t think one time has the county been negligent and any insinuation of that offends me,” he said.

Bob Chestnut, OCBA chair, said there was a lot of public input for the organization to take some kind of action.

“It’s good,” he said of the proposed amendments. “It’s moving in the right direction.”

Luana Gibbs, Hyde County Health director, said in an interview Tuesday that the state tests for rabies fairly quickly since time is of the essence.

She also is looking into having a low-cost rabies clinic on Ocracoke.

According to the current, county-wide ordinance, all dogs and cats over four months of age running at large must display a current rabies tag.

The ordinance also empowers the sheriff’s department to determine of a dog is “vicious.” If so, the ordinance requires those dogs to be kept on the owners’ property or on a leash and “in the care of a responsible person.”

The OCBA meeting was streamed live on the OCBA Facebook page.

Mathews provided the following links regarding what may local governments do to prevent owners from letting their
animals roam without a leash:

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  1. To the comments above this is not an over reaction. My wife and I have owned dogs for over 40 years. We loved all of them and they are part of the Family. With that said I would never own a vicious Dog. One that would cause harm to other dogs or people. It’s been a long time coming but no one ,local or visitor should have to worry about getting bitten just walking down the street or their dogs. I’m glad Hyde County is moving in the right direction.

  2. I can see not allowing dogs to run free, but I don’t see how this incident is related to a new proposed ordinance? It wouldn’t have changed anything had it been in place before this happened. “…after the dog escaped its house, the owner was actively looking for it.” It wasn’t intentionally being allowed to run free.

  3. So if a car hits someone are you going to ban cars on Ocracoke? Don’t overreact to something that is not a major problem. Less regulation is better.

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