The differences in dog courts
Both counties have ways to dispute canine safety, but there are some differences between the New Hanover and Brunswick County dog courts.
In New Hanover County, the Dangerous Dog Appeals Court is a three person volunteer panel, which hears each case.
In Brunswick County, a five-man health committee acts as the jury. It sounds similar, but here’s where the differences add up.
In New Hanover County a third of the appeals were over ruled last year while in Brunswick County, Health Director Don Yousey ultimately decides whether a dog is dangerous or not. Over the last two years he’s declared eight dogs dangerous, but Yousey has never had over one of his dangerous dog verdicts over ruled during the appeals procedure.
Brunswick County resident Linda Janus, who lost her appeal in dog court two months ago, is concerned about the lack of due process.
“I knew before I came here that the decision would be made against me. It went just the way I thought… They don’t follow the ordinances and they have their minds made up from the beginning.”
In New Hanover County, Dangerous Dog Appeals Court is held once a month. In Brunswick County, Dog Appeals Court is more of a once-a-year thing. There was only one last year, and so far this year, there’s been just one. It was Sunset Harbor resident Linda Janus appealing on behalf of her three American Eskimo dogs.
In New Hanover County, the panelists openly discuss every aspect of the case in public, right in front of both parties.
In Brunswick County, the decision-making is made behind closed doors.
For now, this is the way they do it, but Brunswick County is considering a change to their process.
“I believe what we have in place is a good system. Brunswick County has already come to talk with me about what we do here and their intent is to follow what we do here so it’s not so cumbersome a process for them,” said Dr. Jean McNeil of NHC Animal Control.
Whether it’s Brunswick County or New Hanover County, if a dog loses in dog appeals court, the dog will have to adhere to dangerous dog guidelines forever… unless the dog’s owner chooses to have the case heard in superior court.
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