With the pop culture phenomenon of Netflix’s Tiger King sweeping across America, the ownership of big cats and other exotic pets continues to be a big issue in North Carolina. If you or a loved one is fearful of an exotic pet living nearby, then this blog is for you! Private zoos and personal collections can have dire consequences for neighbors and visitors. Often neglected and improperly cared for, exotic pets cause trouble across the Tar Heel State. With the tragic passing of Alexandra Black in Burlington, many North Carolinians are wondering what can be done about a potentially dangerous animal living in their community.
It's Actually Pretty Easy to Own an Exotic Pet in North Carolina
According to Pam Fulk, director of Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro, “in North Carolina, your neighbor can own a tiger in his backyard unless you live in a county or a municipality in which it's illegal." Because of the ease of owning an exotic pet, residents of North Carolina don’t have to look far for examples of dangerous exotic pets. Alexandra Black was a twenty-two year old intern at the Conservators Center when she was mauled by a fourteen-year-old lion. Black was originally from New Palestine, Indiana and had begun an animal husbandry internship about ten days before her death. On the day of the accident, Black and her coworkers were cleaning a lion enclosure. Matthai, a fourteen-year-old lion born and raised at the center, was supposed to be locked into a separate area but entered the enclosure and quickly attacked Black. Black died shortly after the attack.
By leaving it up to individual counties to regulate, the North Carolina General Assembly has punted on the issue. Currently, forty-three out of the one-hundred counties in North Carolina do not have an exotic animal ordinance. Because of this inaction, the availability of recourse for worried residents depends on which county they live. If you live in a county that regulates exotic pets, like Wake or Mecklenburg, then citizens can contact local authorities to report a violation of county ordinances. Here in Charlotte, the Mecklenburg County Animal Control Ordinance penalizes exotic pet owners through seizure or forfeit of the exotic pet[s], fines, and liability for negligence lawsuits just for owning an exotic pet. For the complete ordinance, please see:
Your County May Have Protections in Place to Ban or Limit Exotic Pet Ownership
If you live in a county that does not regulate exotic pets, there are still actions that can be taken to protect yourself. The exotic pet owner could be in violation of other local ordinances; such as restrictions on the numbers of animals living in the household, noise restrictions, vaccination requirements, and sanitary concerns. If the exotic pet owner is in violation of local ordinances regarding the care of the pets, the concerned party can file nuisance complaints and potentially have the animals removed. Contacting an attorney can help you research and file a nuisance complaint.
There are recourses available for injuries caused by an exotic pet. North Carolina uses strict liability for owners of exotic pets. From personal injury to negligence suits, litigation is available to injured parties. If you or someone you know has been injured by an ‘exotic pet’ in North Carolina, contact our office today.