Q. Is it legal for a citizen to use a firearm to protect himself from a dog attack in Wilmington? Let’s assume that the shooter has a concealed weapons permit. And what if the aggressive dog is only attacking the shooter’s dog and not a person? I ask this because a story published yesterday in USA Today reported on an Ohio man who was arrested for using a firearm (carried legally) to protect his smaller dog from an attacking pit bull. I’d like to know the legality of this seemingly reasonable use of force against an aggressive animal in ILM. I guess this raises a larger question of when it is legal to fire a gun within our city limits.
A. According to New Hanover County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jerry Brewer, “In respect to the county ordinance, it is unlawful to recklessly discharge a firearm and this can be based on one or a culmination of factors such as impairment, direction, background, weapon type, property damage, injury etc. You do have the right to protect yourself, someone else and your pet from what you reasonably believe to be an imminent threat of serious injury or death, even with a firearm. Just remember that it is not considered a use of deadly force per se when it is on an animal.
“The Wilmington Ordinance is a good bit different and does not allow the discharge of a firearm in the city limits, however this ordinance does not have the power to supersede federal or state laws such as defending yourself, someone else or your pet,” Brewer said. “Example: If a dog is attacking my dog in the city limits and I feel that it is necessary to discharge a weapon to preserve that life, then it should be counted as a legal act. With that said, if I discharge that same weapon under the same circumstances but I do it in what may be perceived as a reckless manner, such as direction of persons, strike property, strike persons, etc., then those factors may come into play to create an illegal performance of a legal act.”
Date posted: November 14, 2013
User-contributed question by: