Cape Hatteras National Seashore law enforcement rangers are looking for a dog that bit a 2-year-old boy in the face on the beach in Waves about noon on Thursday.
According to Tim Havens, NPS acting chief ranger, Cape Hatteras National Seashore officials are being assisted by Dare County Animal Control and the Dare County Sheriff’s Office as they search for the dog.
The male dog was described by witnesses as brown, possibly a shepherd mix, medium size — 50-plus pounds — not wearing a collar. The dog possibly is known by the name, “Taco.”
“We don’t know if it’s a stray dog or someone’s pet,” Havens said.
He added that some witnesses said the dog had been seen on the beach on and off during the week and was possibly wearing a collar earlier in the week.
Dare County Emergency Medical Services responded to the call, but Havens said the family preferred to transport the child themselves to the emergency room of a local hospital. From there, the child was transported to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Va., for further evaluation.
Havens said he had no update on the child’s condition.
Dogs off-leash are prohibited on the seashore, and the Park Service had just issued a news release a few weeks ago reminding locals and visitors of the policy.
“Cape Hatteras National Seashore staff asks for visitors’ cooperation in protecting wildlife and other visitors by observing leash laws and by cleaning up after your pets,” the release said.
Federal regulations in the national seashore require that dogs be crated, caged, on a six-foot leash, or otherwise under physical restraint. During the summer months, dogs are prohibited on designated swimming beaches, such as Coquina Beach, Buxton Beach or the Ocracoke Day Use area.
Recent observations of dogs off-leash in the seashore have resulted in verbal and written warnings and citations.
“Unleashed dogs are known to have serious impacts on park wildlife and can be a nuisance or threat to other visitors while enjoying the beach,” Superintendent David Hallac said in the release. “This is an issue that we take very seriously, especially now in our high visitation period and during wildlife nesting season.”
Park rangers can ticket dog owners $125 for each unleashed dog and $125 for each dog entering a posted closure for first offenses. Repeated offenders could face up to a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or six months in jail.
Tampering with threatened and endangered species or their habitat requires a mandatory appearance in federal court with possible fines of $25,000 and incarceration of five years. Threatened and endangered species nesting at Cape Hatteras include both shorebirds and sea turtles.
Park visitors also need protection from roaming dogs,” the park said in the release. “Not everyone welcomes a strange, wet dog charging up to them or their small children while swimming or walking on the beach. Many children and adults are afraid of unfamiliar dogs. Even a ‘friendly’ dog that ‘would never bite’ can act unpredictably towards strangers.”
If you have any information about the dog in this week’s incident, please call the Park Service’s main number at 252-473-2111 and leave a voicemail after office hours or during the weekend. You can also send a tweet to @CapeHatterasNPS.