Zebra Cobra: A Survey of Animal Control Laws in North Carolina
The recent story of the zebra cobra loose in Raleigh made national news and, in the process, captured our attentions and nightmares. The story fascinated people of all ages who eventually came to the same conclusion: “How can someone own a zebra cobra in North Carolina?”
Interestingly, current North Carolina laws permit a person to own venomous reptiles as long as the animals are “housed in a sturdy and secure enclosure.” N.C.Gen.Stat. §14-417(a). The enclosures must—amongst other requirements—be escape-proof, bite-proof, and have an operable lock. Id. In the event a local law enforcement or animal control officer has probable cause to believe this statute is or is about to be violated, the officer may immediately investigate the violation or impending violation which includes seizure of the animals. N.C.Gen.Stat. §14-419(a). Current legislation is being discussed by members of the General Assembly which may alter the ability to own these animals moving forward.
While these laws apply to the state in general, local governments may pass ordinances that regulate, restrict, or prohibit the possession or harboring of animals which are dangerous to people or property. N.C.Gen.Stat. §153A-131; N.C.Gen.Stat. §160A-187. These statutes do not explain which animals qualify for nor attempt to define ”dangerous animals,” leaving this task to the local governments to do so within their ordinances.
The zebra cobra saga has citizens and local leaders reviewing their animal control ordinances with this new danger in mind.
Have questions about the drafting and enforcement of these type of ordinances? Reach out to our municipal law team to assist your community in slithering through these challenges.