What You Need to Know About the Virginia Dangerous Dog Law

Srofano Law can provide you with answers about Virginia’s dangerous dog law. Get in touch with us today to schedule a free consultation!

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What Is the Dangerous Dog Law in Virginia?

Has your dog bitten a person or another dog or cat? Have you been charged under the Dangerous Dog Law? Are you being accused of owning a vicious dog? If you were charged as the animal’s owner or custodian, hiring our experienced defense attorneys at Gretchen Taylor Pousson at Scrofano Law may be necessary.

Virginia has put in place many laws protecting the safety of its citizens. One of these laws is the Dangerous Dog Law. The Dangerous Dog Law in Virginia outlines regulations and provisions aimed at addressing and controlling dogs deemed to pose a threat to public safety due to their aggressive behavior.

Breaking Down the Dangerous Dog Law in Virginia

According to the Code of Virginia, a dangerous dog is one that attacks, bites, or kills a person or a companion animal belonging to another. This law applies whether the companion animal is a dog or a cat.

In the event of an incident, an animal control officer or law enforcement officer may ask the court for a summons if they think the animal is dangerous. The summons will require the dog’s owner to appear in court. As soon as the summons is issued, the local animal control officer will determine if the owner can still confine the attacking dog safely.

Upon appearing in court, the legal process for trial and appeals mirrors that of a misdemeanor offense, requiring the prosecution to establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt in order to hold an individual accountable. Consequently, for an animal to be declared a dangerous dog, evidence needs to show that the animal:

  • Killed a person or companion dog or cat
  • Inflicted serious injury on a person or companion dog or cat

The serious injury inflicted on a person can be a laceration, major puncture of skin by teeth, or broken bone. Serious injury to a companion animal includes serious impairment of body functions.

The owner or custodian of the animal may be responsible for the injury or death of a person or companion animal. If a minor owns the animal, the minor’s parent or guardian may be held liable.

What Happens After a Dog Is Declared a Dangerous Dog?

After a verdict is issued declaring the animal a dangerous dog, the local animal control officer shall issue a tag identifying the animal as such.

Within 30 days, the owner is required to:

  • Submit documentation that such dog has been spayed or neutered

  • Submit documentation that such dog already has electronic identification implanted

  • Obtain a dangerous dog registration certificate from the Virginia Dangerous Dog Registry

  • Pay $150 to the local government body

  • Post visible signs on the residence that a dangerous dog is on the property.

The law requires the owner or custodian to inform the local animal control officer in case of:

  • Transfer of ownership of the dog

  • Change in handling the dog

  • Complaints or attack incidents

  • The dog’s death, escape, or loss

  • Change of residence

What Are the Penalties Under the Dangerous Dog Law?

In Virginia, if a dog is declared dangerous due to attacking, biting, or causing harm to a person or another companion animal, the court can impose various measures to ensure public safety. These penalties may include:

  • Confinement Requirements: The court may order that the dangerous dog be securely confined on the owner’s property, often with specific requirements for the enclosure’s construction and security.

  • Euthanasia: In severe cases where a dangerous dog poses an extreme threat to public safety, the court might order the dog to be euthanized to prevent future incidents.

  • Restitution: The owner of the dangerous dog may be required to pay restitution to cover medical bills or other expenses incurred by the victim or the owner of the harmed companion animal.

  • Prohibition on Ownership: In some cases, the court might prohibit the owner from owning certain breeds or types of dogs that are deemed more prone to aggressive behavior.

Penalties can differ depending on the circumstances, local laws, and the court’s discretion. Consulting with legal professionals who understand Virginia’s Dangerous Dog Law is crucial if you’re facing penalties.

Are There Exceptions to the Dangerous Dog Law?

While the law is designed to address and regulate dogs that exhibit aggressive behavior, there are circumstances where the law may not apply or where dogs might be exempted from its provisions. Some potential exceptions could include:

  • No serious injury has occurred to the companion animal
  • Both the attacking dog and the companion animal are owned by the same person
  • The attack on the companion animal happened on the property of the attacking dog
  • The injury to a person consists only of a single nip or a minor injury

The law also provides that the animal cannot be considered a dangerous dog if the animal:

  • Was engaged in the performance of its duty as a police dog
  • Was protecting itself or its kennel
  • Was protecting another person
  • Was protecting its owner’s or custodian’s property
  • Was responding to its pain or injury
  • Was participating in a lawful dog-handling event
  • Was participating in lawful hunting

Secure the Help of Our Criminal Lawyers

Typically, the owner of an attacking dog is held liable for the act committed by the dog. However, Virginia’s Dangerous Dog Law is quite interesting because it lists many exceptions. Our criminal lawyers can help you take advantage of these exceptions.

Engaging our services for matters concerning the Dangerous Dog Law is crucial for numerous reasons. Our legal expertise ensures personalized defense strategies, guides you through intricate procedures, and involves adept negotiations with prosecutors. For example, if you’re facing charges due to owning a specific breed, we can potentially get your complaint dismissed.

With our knowledge, we, as criminal lawyers, can effectively reduce penalties, safeguard your rights, and offer invaluable assistance throughout the legal process.

Facing criminal charges in Fairfax, VA? Reach out to Gretchen Taylor Pousson at Scrofano Law. Our team excels at defending and achieving positive outcomes for clients in Virginia. Schedule a consultation today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need to Maintain Liability Insurance for Keeping My Dog?

Yes. The owner must maintain a bond or liability insurance coverage as long as they own a dangerous dog. The owner, custodian, or harborer must submit evidence of insurance or bond annually.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Dangerous Dog Incident?

The statute of limitations requires a dog bite injury to be filed within two years of the incident.


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