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Dog Bite, Virginia

What Are The Dog Bite Laws in Virginia?

Jul 11, 2023 | Blog

What Are The Dog Bite Laws in Virginia?

The regulations concerning dangerous dogs in Virginia are primarily governed by the Code of Virginia §3.2-6540. However, many aspects of dog bite cases in the state are determined by prior case law rather than specific statutes.  

Virginia follows a “one-bite” rule, meaning a dog can have one attack without facing euthanasia.  

Moreover, aggressive behavior that exhibits attack tendencies may be considered a bite in advance. 

Even if it’s the dog’s first attack, you still have the right to seek compensation and can file a lawsuit against the dog owner for negligence.  

It is the state’s responsibility to determine whether the dog is too dangerous to be allowed to live. 

Virginia law provides a precise definition of a “dangerous dog.”  

  • On one hand, a dog is classified as dangerous if it: 
  • Kills or seriously injures a companion animal (dog or cat) resulting in significant medical attention, serious impairment of health or bodily function, disfigurement, injuries with reasonable potential to cause death, or injuries other than sprains or strains. 
  • Directly causes serious injury to a person, such as lacerations, broken bones, or substantial puncture wounds from its teeth. 

On the other hand, a dog cannot be declared dangerous based on: 

  • Its breed. 
  • Injuring a person who was knowingly trespassing or committing a crime on the owner’s property. 
  • Injuring a person who provoked, tormented, or physically abused the dog during the attack or previously. 
  • Being an on-duty police dog. 
  • Attacking in response to pain or injury. 
  • Attacking to protect itself, its offspring, its owner, a person, or the owner’s property. 
  • Injuring a cat or another dog during lawful hunting or participating in an organized, lawful dog handling event. 

Virginia courts have broad discretion in evaluating dog attack cases and may determine, based on the evidence or other good cause, that a dog is not dangerous or poses no threat to the community. 

When determining liability in a dog attack, Virginia law applies the “one-bite rule.”  

According to this rule, a dog owner should be aware of their animal’s aggressive tendencies after the first attack.  

If they fail to take appropriate precautions, they can be held liable for subsequent attacks resulting in injuries. 

You may also pursue compensation for your injuries by arguing that the owner was negligent, even if the dog has no history of violence.  

To succeed in this claim, you need to provide evidence that the owner did not exercise “reasonable care” to prevent their dog from causing harm to others. 

If the owner violated a law or regulation aimed at preventing animal-related injuries, you may establish negligence by presenting evidence of the violation.  

For example, although Virginia state law does not mandate dogs to be kept on a leash, many municipalities have leash laws.  

 Violation of such local ordinances can be evidence of negligence per se. 

A personal injury attorney can assess your case and identify legal arguments to establish the liability of the responsible party.  

However, note that injured parties may not recover compensation for attacks they provoked by abusing or tormenting the dog, harming the owner in the presence of the dog, or trespassing on the owner’s property. 

The compensation available for a dog bite attack depends on the severity of your injuries.  

An experienced dog bite injury attorney can assist you in seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, emotional distress, funeral and burial expenses, and wrongful death. 

In Virginia, the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit related to a dog bite injury is two years from the date of the incident.  

Failing to meet this deadline may result in your case being dismissed by the court.  

It is crucial to consult a personal injury attorney promptly to protect your rights and explore options for compensation.

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