Virginia Dog Law

Liability Statute

Virginia does not have a Dog Bite Statute.

Common Law Liability

An injured person can recover damages for injuries caused by a dog against its owner if the plaintiff proves the owner’s negligence caused the injury.

Dangerous Dog Statute

In Virginia, the governing body of any county, city, or town is free to enact a local dangerous and vicious dog ordinances. If a county chooses to enact such laws, the state requires, at a minimum, the following:

The Meaning of a “Dangerous Dog”

A "dangerous dog" is a dog that has bitten, attacked, or inflicted injury on a person or a companion animal (other than a dog) or one that has killed a companion animal. When a dog bites or attacks another dog or cat, the attacking dog will not be deemed dangerous if no serious physical injury, as determined by a veterinarian, has occurred; if both dogs are owned by the same person, if such attack occurs on the property of the attacking or biting dog's owner or custodian; or for other good cause as determined by the court; or if the attack occurred while the dogs were hunting or participating in an organized lawful dog handling event.

The Meaning of a “Vicious Dog”

A "vicious dog" means a dog that has killed a person, has inflicted serious injury on a person, including multiple bites, serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious impairment of a bodily function; or has continued to exhibit the behavior which resulted in a previous finding by a court that it is a dangerous dog.

Legal Responsibilities of Dangerous Dog Owners

  • Owners must obtain a dangerous dog registration certificate from the local animal control officer for a fee ranging from $50 to $150.
  • A dangerous dog must wear a “dangerous dog” identification tag. In addition, the dog must be identified by means of electronic implantation.
  • Owners must post their property with clearly-visible signs warning both minors and adults of the presence of a dangerous dog.
  • While on its owner’s property, the dog must be confined indoors or confined outdoors in a securely enclosed and locked structure to prevent its escape and direct contact with or entry by minors, adults, or other animals. When off its owner’s property, the dangerous dog must be kept on a leash and muzzled to prevent it from biting a person or another animal.
  • Dangerous dog owners must maintain liability insurance coverage of at least $100,000 that covers animal bites.

Dog Owner's Liability

  • Owners who violate a Dangerous Dog Ordinance will be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • Owners of a dangerous dog who bites or attacks a human being causing injury will be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • If the owner of a dangerous dog is a minor, the child’s parent or legal guardian is responsible for complying with all laws.

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Note: Our attorneys are licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia. This information is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, although if you are injured in an accident, we have relationships with other personal injury attorneys and lawyers throughout the United States.